Published on: June 2021
Prevention of Domestic Violence Programs
Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (12:03:02):
That this House:
(1)Acknowledges the thousands of women who rallied on the streets of Sydney, other cities and towns across New South Wales on 15 March 2021 demanding justice for victims of gendered violence.
(2)Notes women have had enough of inequality, discrimination, harassment and violence, and will continue to speak up and demand change.
(3)Demands the Premier and Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women take action to ensure policy and legislation change on consent education to protect women, enshrine equality, and adequately fund frontline sexual assault services and gendered violence prevention programs.
I acknowledge the success of the March for Justice rallies held across Australia in March and the legacy of those rallies in keeping the demands of women front and centre in public discourse. Those rallies were just the beginning of a new wave of anger and action. The conversation will be ongoing until the demands of women are achieved—decades on. On Saturday I also attended the Enough is Enough rally in Katoomba with more than 300 people from the Blue Mountains gathering in protest to say enough is enough to domestic violence and to sexual violence against women. The reality is the scourge of domestic violence and sexual assault is a daily reality for hundreds of women and children every day across this State, and women are still falling between the gaps.
yet funds for meeting this extrademand are to be cut by $240,000—and this cut is occurring within a political context that espouses a renewed focus on women's policies and budgetsupport.The centre's funding needs to be close to $800,000 per annum—nothing really—just to meet the demand in the Penrith-Nepean area.Within two weeks funding for this service, which is currently unable to meetdemand, will be slashed by half. It is critical that the Government actimmediately to assist Penrith Women's Health Centre. Living with domestic abuse is harrowing for anyone and for somemembers of our community with language and cultural differences tonegotiate, it can seem impossible to find a way out.
Right now, Penrith Women's Health Centre is facing an increasing demand for case management support for women,
In my role as shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and shadow Minister for Women, Irecently hosted, in this Parliament, a roundtable forum to focus on thechallenges faced by victims of domestic violence from multiculturalcommunities.The roundtable forum gathered 30 women representing more than 20 frontlineservices as well as staff from several domestic violence peak bodies.All participants agreed that this was an urgent discussion to have, that their voices are not heard, and it is an area thatneeds careful attention for its unique challenges.We also agreed that current systems and structures have to change to includeall women, regardless of culture and race.Four key issues were identified which I have spoken about in this Chamber recently but I believe it is necessary to put them on the table today.
Firstly, the challenge of getting information about domestic and family violencesupport services out to migrant and refugee women. Secondly, we discussed the myriad difficulties surrounding the reporting of abusive relationships. Many flaws in the system were identified, one example being inappropriate police responses. It is vital that police and first responders are trained to beaware of cultural sensitivities in specific communities and to respond in a trauma-informed manner. Thirdly, we discussed the need for increased support for women on temporaryvisas. Too often access to services is dependent on one's visa status. As aresult many victims of domestic violence are falling through the gaps. The biggest cohort of people falling through the gaps are women who have English as a second language and who come from communities that cannot access services. Finally, and crucially, the urgent need for a culturally appropriate casemanagement service was identified as a priority. It is important to acknowledge that cultures are different and there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach.
Last month the NSW Women's Alliance wrote to the Premier to demand urgent action to tackle unprecedented rates of sexual assault. It outlined nine reformsneeded to achieve that end.The first recommendation was to introduce affirmative consent laws in New South Wales. I acknowledge all those women who worked so hard for so long—women long before my time—who pushed for reform through the media, through governments and through local representatives. Some of those reforms were announced recently by the Attorney General—hard-won reformsthat were pushed by women in our communities and by organisations for decades.But this is not the end of the line. The other eight recommendations are urgent anddemand the close attention of the Government.
In order to introduce changes to evidence and procedural law we need to make the court processmore accessible, safer and trauma-informed for sexual assault complainants. We need to better recognise sexual assault in the context of domestic and familyviolence in our laws, including introducing jury directions on domestic violence.Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia
Developing a model for the implementation of court specialisation for matters involving domestic, family and sexual violence in New South Wales and including attached support services for victim-survivors and offenders is essential. We need to fund teams of case managers for sexual assault to operate out of specialist services for domestic and family violence and to fund support for young offenders. We need to fund independent legal representation in criminal trials for complainants of sexual assault. We need to introduce mandatory reporting and systemic audits of complaints of sexual assaults in aged and disability care settings, and develop a trauma specialist survivor-led response to disclosures. We need to fund a comprehensive whole-of-community primary prevention strategy for New South Wales in line with the national framework, , including a rollout of whole-of-school-community education on consent.
Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (12:10:09):
That the motion be amended by leaving out paragraph (3) with a view to inserting instead:
(3)Commends the Government for taking action to ensure policy and legislation change on consent education to protect women, enshrine equality and adequately fund frontline sexual assault services and gendered violence prevention programs.
I thank the member for Blue Mountains for moving the motion, which serves as a reminder that we all play a part in preventing domestic violence and sexual assault in our communities. Every individual deserves to live their life free from violence and harassment. As the member for Blue Mountains has acknowledged, I too—
Opposition members interjected.
Could I ask those opposite, particularly when we are talking about—
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Greg Piper):
The member for North Shore can ask—
Ms FELICITY WILSON:
Can I ask you, Mr Temporary Speaker? I will ask you, Mr Speaker.
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Greg Piper):
The member for North Shore
Ms FELICITY WILSON:
Would you please ask members opposite not to harass me on a motion about women?
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Greg Piper):
I ask the member for North Shore to give me a chance to intervene.
Ms FELICITY WILSON:
I did ask—
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Greg Piper):
I did notice there was a level of interjection and commentary going on outside of that which would be permitted under the standing orders.
Ms FELICITY WILSON:
Thank you, Mr Temporary Speaker.
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Greg Piper):
I understand that this is an important and highly charged issue. I ask everybody to be respectful in this space. I appreciate we are now hearing of an amendment to the motion. I ask that everybody allow the member for North Shore to proceed without further interjection.
Ms FELICITY WILSON:
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. As the member for Blue Mountains has acknowledged, I would also like to recognise the many thousands of people who joined rallies around Australia on 15 March 2021 in the March 4 Justice to protest against gendered violence. I was among those who marched in the Sydney CBD. I was joined by our Attorney General, who is the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence; by the Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean; by the Deputy Premier; and by the women Minister in this Government; along with many other people in this House, from every side of politics. I thank the many brave women who stepped forward to break the silence about this insidious form of violence and to share their experiences.
We all know that the New South Wales Government is committed to improving the prevention and reporting of domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, and to ensuring the safety of women in homes, in public places and in the workplace. The New South Wales Government is approaching this issue through a number of means within a comprehensive whole-of-government framework, including educating our students on respectful relationships and delivering improved health responses to victims and survivors of domestic violence.
On 21 October 2020, on the motion of the Attorney General, and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, the New South Wales Parliament agreed to establish the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control. I acknowledge the work of the Chair of that committee and now Minister, Natalie Ward. The Government is committed to ensuring that any reform efforts in the coercive control space are balanced and that thorough research and consultation is undertaken to inform any potential reforms.
The committee held five days of public hearings, conducted a regional visit and received 152 written submissions from key government, legal and domestic violence and family violence stakeholders, and the broader community as part of its inquiry. I and the New South Wales Government look forward to receiving the committee's final report, which is due by 30 June 2021. We will carefully consider its recommendations when formulating our response to this important issue.
Consent in relation to sexual offences
On the topic of sexual consent law reform I acknowledge the words of the member for Blue Mountains in recognising the work the Attorney General has undertaken recently in responding to the community's concerns and calls for a form of sexual consent law reform. I had many conversations with the Attorney General. I congratulate him on the work he has undertaken in taking forward these landmark reforms. The Law Reform Commission's Report No 148, , was tabled in Parliament on 18 November 2020. The Government supports or supports in principle all 44 recommendations.
Towards the end of last month the Attorney General, and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence announced proposed reforms, which will improve the justice system's response to sexual offending, improve victim experiences of the justice system, address certain misconceptions about consent, and simplify and modernise the laws about sexual consent. The proposed reforms aim to clarify consent provisions in the Crimes Act 1900, including fundamentally that consent is a free and voluntary choice that should not be presumed and that consent involves ongoing and mutual communication; enhance legal requirements for communicative consent; ensure fairer and more effective prosecutions of sexual offences; address misconceptions about consent in trial proceedings; and improve victim experience of the justice system and juror understanding of the complexities of sexual offending, and reporting through the introduction of new jury directions.
The New South Wales Government will introduce to Parliament later in the year a bill that will go further than the commission's recommendations in one important way, that is by providing that any belief in consent that an accused person had or may have at the time of sexual activity will not be reasonable in the circumstances if the accused did not say or do anything adequate to ascertain consent. We know that women and girls are far more likely than men and boys to experience sexual violence. These reforms will give us a chance to address the systemic issue of sexual violence and improve access to justice for all victim survivors across New South Wales.
Let me be clear: No law can ever erase the trauma of sexual assault, but we can all work together to improve the State's response to what is an incredibly serious issue and to help reduce these assaults form occurring in the first place. That is what these changes ultimately aim to achieve: fewer cases of sexual violence occurring in our communities. These reforms will send a message that consent is essential and must be communicated through words or actions. A research project will also be established by the NSW Bureau of Crimes Statistics and Research to better understand the experiences of complainants of sexual offences within the criminal justice system. Governance will be established to guide implementation and, subsequently, ongoing monitoring of the reforms.
I also acknowledge the work more broadly around consent of Chanel Contos and conversations I have been having with Minister Mitchell about looking at reforms across the education space and the announcement she has made, and particularly the work the member for Newtown has been doing in this place advocating, alongside Chanel, for the people who have experienced this significant trauma and want to see change. We know that policy responses, education and awareness are very important parts of the overall response, and that members on both sides of this House are serious about domestic violence and sexual assault. We recognise that everyone from Government to the community has a role to play in addressing this scourge.
Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL (Coogee) (12:17:11):
Firstly I acknowledge and thank the member for Blue Mountains for bringing this important motion to this House. Domestic abuse and violence is a horrific scourge that impacts all aspects of our society. It impacts each and every electorate in New South Wales and, indeed, electorates across the country. In my own electorate over the past 12 months I have had one frontline domestic violence service provider report a 110 per cent increase in demand for their services. This is a shameful and sobering statistic. The demand for domestic violence services in my electorate is so high that frontline service specialists are struggling to find places where they can conduct interviews with victims and survivors. This is a direct the result of the lack of resources and funding they have received.
Right now we are witnessing a powerful national movement seeking justice for women, and victims and survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment, and finally to put an end to it all. I take this moment to acknowledge and thank the thousands of victims and survivors, including Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame, who have come forward to share their stories. As part of this movement there has been a lot of conversation regarding the role of earlier consent education that can help protect women. I take this moment to acknowledge and thank Chanel Contos for her work. She has been instrumental in ensuring that this topic will be debated on the floor of this House in coming weeks. Chanel has received thousands of testimonies from women who have been sexually assaulted, many of whom are unable to identify that they had been assaulted at all. We need educate our youth and society about consent so we can empower them with information and control over their bodies. Unfortunately, the current proposal put forward by the Minister, as well as being late and well overdue, is problematic and falls far, far short of what is actually needed. It is incredibly disappointing that the New South Wales Government missed the opportunity of the curriculum review to ensure that consent education was deeply embedded in our education system. We need to acknowledge that our teachers have been calling out for additional specialist resources for years to help educate our youth about consent.
We know that we already have a teaching shortage and that our wonderful teachers have been worked to the bone. The current proposal puts more work onto them. In order for our teachers to be able to properly deliver consent education, they require additional specialised resources and staff. The Government must commit to it. In addition, the measure of success—how many students access materials—is arbitrary. A far better measure would be an understanding of the content and reductions in sexual assault. We need to act and seize this moment with both hands, but in order to do that we need a nonpartisan approach towards change. Sadly, we know that sexual assault, sexual harassment and discrimination towards women starts with the inequality that we see every day. It thrives in our workplaces, on our sporting fields and on our streets, and allows for the conditions in which sexual harassment and abuse can occur.
The subordination of women in our society is evident in our pay inequality, in our glass ceilings on promotions, and in professional sportswomen's games being relegated to the back fields or being dumped from prime time television to make way for community sports games. Such inequality and discrimination must come to an end. We must approach such issues without bias, without the impulse to defend any unacceptable behaviours. It is only with this mindset that we will be successful and get the change we desperately need. Sadly, because of how entrenched inequality and discrimination is towards women within our society, it is going to be difficult to unwind. What the Government can do now that can have an immediate impact on those suffering at the moment from domestic violence and abuse is to ensure that frontline service providers are adequately funded so that those seeking assistance can get the help that they need.
Mr KEVIN CONOLLY (Riverstone) (12:21:20):
I make a contribution to this important subject of the education system, which is part of the issues that have been raised. The New South Wales Government recognises the importance of students being educated about consent and respectful relationships in an age-appropriate way. Education is crucial to establishing and upholding what is acceptable in our society. On 30 May this year the Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning announced that a new consent package was being developed for New South Wales schools, focusing on support for teachers and engagement with parents. A new range of teaching and learning resources, aligned with the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education curriculum, will be created for teachers. Resources will be available on the Department of Education's Learning Resources hub.
The new suite of initiatives follows the signing of a statement of intent on 26 March this year by the leaders of New South Wales government, catholic and independent school sectors to strengthen the understanding of consent and harm prevention in schools in New South Wales. The Department of Education has also partnered with the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of NSW and will hold the first webinar for all public school P&Cs this month to discuss the statement of intent, what students currently learn through the curriculum, and how parents and carers can stay engaged in the discussion. The Government has made it very clear that it wants to work with the community to address sexual violence and create safer and stronger communities. It is important that both schools and parents have all the assistance they need to have these important conversations with their young people.
The NSW Curriculum has already embedded respectful relationships education from kindergarten through to year 10 in the PDHPE K-10 syllabus, and the mandatory Life Ready Course across years 11 and 12. A new syllabus was released back in 2018, after extensive consultation with academics, students and teachers, and has been implemented in schools across the State since then. The new syllabus introduced in 2018 focuses on respectful and positive relationships, sexually based harassment, discrimination and, importantly, clear and age‑appropriate teaching of consent, which means very different things to students in early primary school than to senior secondary school students. NSW Department of Education schools are able to decide when and how to deliver the content based on the needs and interests of their students. The New South Wales curriculum is adopted and adapted from the Australian Curriculum, noting that the Australian Curriculum does not cover the years 11 and 12 component in PDHPE—New South Wales maintains its own senior secondary syllabuses.
A review of the national curriculum, led by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, is underway. Formal consultations began in April 2021 and the NSW Education Standards Authority is contributing feedback to the review to ensure alignment between the review and the NSW Curriculum Reform program. That presents an opportunity for States and Territories to come together to set a national approach to relationship and consent education in schools. It is a whole-of-society challenge. It is not just about schools, it is not just about workplaces; it is about all of society, and there is no panacea or silver bullet to solve it, which is why we need to work together to drive change and why we need to build on constructive, positive steps and bring along the community with us in a way in which everybody has confidence that we are dealing with this together.
I support the amendment of my colleague the member for North Shore in trying to present the motion in such a way that it is not a criticism, it is not a political pointscoring exercise; it is an attempt to acknowledge what has been done, what needs to be done and what will continue to be done as everybody in this Parliament works towards trying to combat domestic and sexual violence wherever it occurs and to ensure that our kids are well educated in respectful relationships.
Mr CLAYTON BARR (Cessnock) (12:25:44):
I support the motion as moved by the member for Blue Mountains. I briefly touch on the amendment. I urge the Government to show a little bit of humility on this occasion. Far too many times, Government members come into this place and tell the House and the public who are watching that the Government needs to be thanked, applauded and praised for the work that it has done, the suggestion being that the work always has been done. Given what we are facing in our community and society right now, given the space that has been provided in the media, given the many, many thousands of unresolved questions around the issue, I would suspect that the work has not been done and, hence, the Government does not deserve to be commended. Is there more work to do? Yes, of course there is. So let us not commend; let us just show some humility and recognise that we still need to do more. This motion demands that we do more. If members do not demand that of themselves then I am deeply disappointed in them.
I will touch on this question about consent education. I was a former teacher of Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. I know what it is like for a government to make a decision and decide that schools will take responsibility for teaching this important new framework for society. I want the House to think about the questions of obesity, smoking, sex education, mental health, HIV/AIDS, drug education, nutrition, self‑confidence and self-esteem, child protection and child abuse issues, domestic violence and, more recently, terrorism and extremism. What has happened on each of those issues is that people in this place have decided society has got a problem, that we are going to dump that topic into the PDHPE curriculum and make it the entire responsibility of school teachers, and then people in this place assume their work is done.
The outrageous effect of that on workload is one question I will set aside. I want to speak to the outrageous attitude of the House and some members who have already spoken in proposing that this is only an issue for people under the age of 17, an issue that only 17-year-olds might grow into. I say to the House: It is an enormous problem. There are occasions where people under the age of 16 or 17 are committing those terrible things, but the reality is that domestic and sexual violence is widespread in our community right now and is being perpetrated by adults who are not at school. I do not understand the logic of saying that it can simply be passed off as a new school education program; I do not know what can be cut out to fit this in.
I know that when a previous program, suggesting that we consider the important questions of gender identity and sexual fluidity, was put forward by experts some members opposite rallied against it because it did not fit their paradigm. But on this occasion they are saying because it fits their paradigm it is okay. We have an enormous problem that needs to be addressed, and this motion is seeking to do that. The hubris of those opposite forces them to fumble and stumble at the first step. I ask them to withdraw their amendment and simply support the motion. Let us be bipartisan on this issue.
Ms MELANIE GIBBONS (Holsworthy) (12:29:43):NSW Domestic and Family Violence Blueprint for Reform 2016-2021
Our frontline services provide vital support to people across New South Wales who are experiencing domestic and family violence, and sexual assault. The workers do a tremendous job helping some of our most vulnerable members of the community, and we thank them for their dedication. The New South Wales Government is committed to supporting victim-survivors of domestic and family violence and is investing a record $538 million over four years to realise the Premier's priority to reduce domestic violence reoffending by 25 per cent by 2023. Primary prevention is a key strategy under the . The key prevention activities include supporting the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 and the development of the next iteration, and investing $20 million in the New South Wales Domestic and Family Violence Innovation Fund, which is delivering 20 innovative projects.
The New South Wales Government is also committed to a whole-of-government approach responding to and supporting victim-survivors of sexual assault. The NSW Sexual Assault Strategy is a comprehensive whole‑of‑government framework to improve prevention and responses to sexual assault. The strategy sets out a coordinated approach to sexual assault in New South Wales, with 26 activities under five key priority action areas: prevention and early intervention, education, supporting victims and survivors, holding perpetrators to account, and reshaping the service system. More than half of these actions have already been completed and significant cross-agency work is currently in progress to deliver the rest of the activities.
NSW Health plays an integral role in delivering a network of sexual assault services across New South Wales. NSW Health offers 24-hour integrated psychosocial, medical and forensic responses for adults, young people and children who have experienced sexual assault. That is across every local health district. The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network also provides the same 24-hour responses to all forms of child abuse and neglect, including sexual assault, through the child protection units. NSW Health sexual assault services are staffed by trained counsellors, specialist doctors and sexual assault nurse examiners. NSW Health offers a range of sexual assault services including counselling, medical care, medical forensic examinations to collect evidence for criminal investigations, advocacy and court preparation. It acts quickly to ensure that people who have experienced sexual assault are able to continue to access integrated services during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is incredibly important.
In relation to domestic and family violence, NSW Health violence, abuse and neglect services deliver a range of specific interventions and support, including counselling, safety planning, risk assessment, local prevention work and collaboration with partner agencies. Women aged 16 and over in mental health and alcohol and other drug services and all women in maternity and child and family health services are routinely screened for domestic violence across NSW Health. They are provided with support and referral options if violence is disclosed. New South Wales has taken another step to improve women's safety and wellbeing, launching a $1.8 million pilot program in November 2020. It is a 12-month pilot program screening for domestic violence in six emergency departments, with a view to statewide expansion. It is being funded by the Commonwealth Government under the national Health Innovation Fund.
These responses offered by the public health system provide interventions to help prevent violence and reduce potential long-term adverse impacts for individuals and families. We know that domestic violence is more prevalent among emergency department users than in most other healthcare and community settings, and it is a 24-hour service with relative anonymity. There is far more to be done and, with that in mind, the New South Wales Government is taking critical steps to protect victim-survivors from harm, and will continue to do so.
Ms ANNA WATSON (Shellharbour) (12:33:51
): By leave: I begin by reiterating the call by the member for Cessnock for the member for North Sydney to withdraw her amendment. It is unhelpful and unnecessary. It is disappointing that the member would bring such an amendment to the debate, speak in the debate and then leave the Chamber. As we all know, it is a human right to be safe at work, safe at home and safe at play. But it is a human right that not all of us enjoy to the fullest extent. Physical, psychological and sexual violence unfortunately pervades the greater community in all its facets and debilitates women disproportionately in Australia. This was brought into sharp focus by the demonstrations attended by tens of thousands of women across the nation, the centrepiece of which was the speech by Brittany Higgins, who highlighted her treatment by the Government that for so many women was mirrored in the gendered violence they had suffered in their own lives.
Women survivors come forward every single day to report violence to a structure that, at its core, has a singular lack of understanding or no appropriate legislation to give women confidence of justice for the crime of rape and other acts of gendered violence that have profound, lifelong consequences for survivors, often including physical disabilities and mental health conditions. My work on the coercive control bill highlighted to me how much our laws lack maturity in terms of the long-term psychological effects perpetrated on mostly women by men close to them. Yet our prevention infrastructure and support services are not resourced to adequately support survivors' safety. Systems too often fail to hold perpetrators to account.
In my interview with the ABC, I highlighted that consent must be given voluntarily before the beginning of a sexual encounter. Consent must be present prior to sex and, if necessary, during the act. A person's body autonomy should be respected. We need to start from a position that the body is unavailable until it is made available to the other person. The question becomes: Was she consenting? Did he know she was not consenting? The situation is made much more difficult when the sexual assault is alleged to have happened between partners. The subjectivity of the opposing views makes a positive determination for the complainant difficult in court. In determining whether sex is reasonably available, it is not unreasonable to assume that a man should know whether a women is consenting to sex, regardless of his original view.
In determining consent, physical evidence may not be present. There may be no sign of physical violence on the victim and the victim may not have fought back. But that is not a reason to think the sex was consensual. It may well go to the shock and fear suffered by the victim during the attack. Submission is not consent, although some take it as such. There always needs to be an unequivocal "yes" from the other person. Consent must be given voluntarily in making that decision. A person should be in a position to make a free, cognitive, unimpaired decision in relation to sex. In the context of any decision made in a sexual assault case, that should be the prime consideration.
A place for Australia to start looking for examples of comprehensive laws to protect women is the Istanbul Convention. It is the first legally binding instrument that creates a comprehensive legal framework and approach to combat violence against women and is focused on preventing domestic violence, protecting victims and prosecuting accused offenders.
Ms ROBYN PRESTON (Hawkesbury) (12:38:06
): By leave: The New South Wales Government shares the concerns of the member for Blue Mountains about those impacted by sexual assault and is committed to protecting victim-survivors and ensuring that women are safe from sexual predation. In response to the current allegations within Federal Parliament, the Women's March 4 Justice held more than 40 rallies on Monday 15 March 2021. This moment, built on the stories of thousands of brave women across our communities, was unmistakably very powerful. We, as a nation, must get our response right. We must hear and really listen to the complex reasons women are so deeply aggrieved. Organisers are calling on politicians to address and put an end to sexism, misogyny, dangerous workplace cultures, and lack of equality in politics and in the community at large.
Those requests include full independent investigations into instances of gendered violence in politics with full public accountability for findings, the removal of perpetrators from positions of power and the implementation of the 55 recommendations put forward in Respect@Work, the Australian Human Rights Commission's 2020 report of the national inquiry into sexual harassment. As the Australian Human Rights Commission reported, almost two in five women, or 39 per cent, and just over one in four men, or 26 per cent, have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the past five years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more likely to have experienced workplace sexual harassment than people who are non-Indigenous. Instances of harassment were reported to be 53 per cent and 32 per cent respectively for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Sexual harassment occurs at all levels in every workplace across our nation, including at Parliament—that is worrying.
Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry ReportA Roadmap for Respect: Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment in Australian WorkplacesNSW Women's Strategy 2018-2022 NSW Sexual Assault Strategy 2018-2021
The New South Wales Government is committed to working with the Commonwealth Government on a nationally coordinated response to the Australian Human Rights Commission's . On April 8 2021 the Commonwealth Government released its response to the report, entitled . The roadmap responds to all of the 55 recommendations made in the Respect@Work report. On 9 April 2021 a National Cabinet meeting was held to discuss the Respect@Work report and the Commonwealth Government's response. New South Wales and the other States and Territories agreed to provide a formal response to Respect@Work. The New South Wales Government is already taking action on a number of recommendations, including via the and the .
Change the Course
Those strategies have funded a number of programs, which include The Make No Doubt community education campaign, which identifies a continuum from sexual harassment to sexual assault and the importance of consent; the NSW Domestic and Family Violence Corporate Leadership Group, which convened to provide strategic leadership from a range of industries and professions to promote safe workplaces free from harassment; support for New South Wales universities and university residential colleges to implement the recommendations of the AHRC report; and a sexual assault toolkit that is being developed by ACON for LGBTQ communities to recognise and respond to sexual assault. That toolkit will unpack the myths and attitudes that condone or enable sexual harassment in LGBTQ community settings. In addition the Government joined with Our Watch on 1 July 2019 to make New South Wales part of a cohesive national primary prevention approach.
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (12:42:15):
By leave: On behalf of The Greens I support the motion moved by the member for Blue Mountains. I thank her for bringing the motion to the Chamber. From the outset I express my disgust at the fact that the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government has sought to amend the motion—it is astonishing. We are debating a motion that talks about the women who marched to demand change on the streets; we are talking about the need to address inequality, discrimination, harassment and violence that women are subjected to; and we are also demanding that further action be taken. Instead members of the Government have amended the motion to commend themselves for how wonderful they are. When I spoke at the March 4 Justice rally entitled "Enough is Enough", none of those demonstrators was saying, "You are doing a great job—continue." The rally was called "Enough is Enough". People were out, demonstrating in anger because the Government is not doing enough.
Government members cannot hear those cries for change outside; instead they commend themselves for doing a great job, which completely beggars belief. I acknowledge that the campaign has been driven by amazing young women, leaders and activists in the community. I acknowledge the work of Saxon Mullins, Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins, Dhanya Mani and Chanel Contos. Those women led the Women's March 4 Justice, they are engaging in the "youth against sexual violence Australia" campaign and they have organised youth survivor speak‑outs on a number of occasions in Sydney. That movement has allowed tens of thousands of women who have experienced sexual and domestic violence to be heard across society, which has buoyed inspiration. For decades feminists have called for changes to protect women's rights and to fund refuges, domestic violence prevention services, and the courts and justice system.
Other members have touched on education around consent. On 24 June that will be the subject of debate as a result of a petition that I was proud to sponsor, which was started by Chanel Contos and received over 20,000 signatures. In addition to that we have heard from the NSW Women's Alliance, which consists of women's safety organisations including Domestic Violence NSW, Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, ACON, the Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Service and Women's Safety NSW. The alliance wrote to the Premier urging a nine-point action plan to push for the changes that are needed. When the sector says that those nine points must be addressed, it is clear that the Government is not doing enough. Now is not the time for Government members to commend themselves for what they are doing; it is time for them to listen to the experts and to do more.
It is crucial to recognise that our frontline services are underfunded. In 2019-2020 frontline services nationally recorded that 91.9 per cent of clients in need of domestic violence services were addressed. In New South Wales that figure was just 85.3 per cent. Nearly 15 per cent of people who have approached a service for domestic violence support—for any kind of support, not only a bed—did not receive it. That is not doing enough. That is not worth commending. It is a disgrace for Government members to commend themselves on their inaction in debate on a motion that states that we must come together to do more to protect the lives of women against gendered violence.
Mr ADAM CROUCH (Terrigal) (12:46:21):
By leave: I thank members for their indulgence in allowing me to speak on the motion moved by the member for Blue Mountains. I am proud to represent a community on the Central Coast that fervently holds zero tolerance for domestic violence in our region. Excellent work has been done on the Central Coast by both advocacy groups and the outstanding NSW Police Force, which is on the front line dealing with domestic violence in our region. But, in addition to dealing with domestic violence in the regions, we must also look at Parliament and other government agencies. The New South Wales Government has zero tolerance for bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace. All New South Wales Government workplaces should be places of safety and respect, including the workplaces of staff employed by political office holders.
The NSW Ministerial Code of Conduct requires Ministers to exhibit the highest standards of probity and ethics. Under the NSW Office Holders Staff Code of Conduct, all office holders must treat those with whom they have contact in the course of discharging their duties with respect and courtesy. Everybody is entitled to work in a safe environment. There is no place for bullying, harassment or unsafe workplace behaviour in Parliament House. That is why in November 2020 the leaders of both Houses referred proposals for a parliamentary compliance officer to the Privileges Committee, of which I am a member. We want to ensure that Parliament House is a safe workplace. If a member creates an unsafe environment or bullies or harasses someone, there must be a pathway for the victim to report that if they so choose.
I am sure that every member in this place was deeply saddened and shocked by the allegations of sexual assault from ministerial staff in the Federal Parliament and the apparent shortcomings of the system to respond appropriately. In response to that, the Premier asked the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Professor Pru Goward—also the first Minister responsible for women and the prevention of domestic violence—from Western Sydney University to conduct a review on the process used in relation to complaints about bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct from New South Wales ministerial staff. The terms of reference for Professor Goward's review included that consideration be given to the process by which staff make complaints about bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct in the workplace, including who may be best placed to receive any such complaints; best practice procedures be outlined for the receipt and handling of complaints about bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct in the workplace; and an outline of the circumstances in which it may be appropriate to conduct an internal investigation into allegations of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct, which may also constitute criminal conduct, and the appropriate person or body to conduct any such internal investigation. Professor Goward delivered her report to the Premier in April 2021. The Premier has adopted all the recommendations and there is an opportunity for consultation in the next phase of the process. The Premier said:
If we're serious about making change, we have to do it properly and this will involve engagement with NSW Parliament and any survivors.
The review found that shortcomings currently exist within the system, and 13 recommendations have been made and, of course, all adopted. The pervasiveness of such insidious behaviour makes it urgent to ensure that we bring it to a head. On the Central Coast, we have zero tolerance for that sort of behaviour towards anybody in our community. I am very proud to be part of a community that stands up and says no to domestic violence towards anybody in our community. We must do the same in this building to make sure that we protect those who work with us at all times.
Ms LYNDA VOLTZ (Auburn) (12:50:26):
By leave: That was an extraordinary speech, and I hope the member will send those bullying guidelines to the member for Ryde so that he can have a look at them. I move:
That the amendment be amended by leaving out "commends the Government for taking action" and inserting instead "urges the Premier to take more action".
It is ridiculous that Government members moved an amendment to congratulate themselves. They just spoke about former member Pru Goward. Her actions when she was the Minister for Women were to close women's refuges—hardly what one would expect from a government that was taking action to fight discrimination, inequality and sexual violence. The problem is that this Government has sat on its hands for over a decade regarding the sexual discrimination and inequality that women have faced in our community. Time and time again women have spoken about the problems they face in the community, and this Government does not provide the resources.
Students have told me they have gone through their whole schooling and did not get any education on menstruation. I have to ask the question: What is the Department of Education doing to ensure that the curriculum that is supposed to be delivered to our schools through the PDHPE program is actually being delivered, if girls are not even getting any education on menstruation? The reality is that the people who put forward their complaints under Chanel Contos' petition were aged 13 or 14 years old. If they are not getting education by the time they are in high school then they do not have the tools to be able to defend themselves.
We know that those young girls are being manipulated, pressured, subjected to violence and bullying, embarrassed, exposed on social media and are having their whole lives destroyed at the age of 13. We saw it today when we got the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research [BOCSAR] figures. I congratulate the NSW Police Force because Mick Fuller did the right thing and put online an ability for young girls to report their sexual assaults. Today we saw the figures: a 61 per cent increase. We knew that was coming. We knew that hundreds of girls would report because Mick Fuller went out there and made a big deal about it, and today we have the figures. What has the Government's response been to that? Has anyone heard those opposite put one more cent into frontline services to respond to the hundreds and hundreds of girls who will need a huge amount of support to come forward? During that whole period, from the day that march happened to today, has the Government done anything about it? The answer is no.
Those opposite get up here with their superlatives and make their fancy speeches but if we ask them to tell us exactly one thing they have put into the system since that day, other than Mick Fuller's changes to the way people report, the answer is they have not done anything. They have not done anything in the decade since they removed women's refuges that were a vital part of the protection of women, particularly in regional New South Wales, where women have nowhere else to go. Women members opposite should be embarrassed. They stand condemned for allowing the Government to behave in this way and for moving amendments to congratulate this Government.
Mr JIHAD DIB (Lakemba) (12:54:34):
By leave: I appreciate the indulgence. I acknowledge the motion by the shadow Minister and member for Blue Mountains. She has been a fierce advocate for the protection of women and for the need to deal with the issue of child sexual and domestic violence. It is a tragedy that affects all of society. I have been watching some of it on the telly and listening to the debate in the Chamber. We must all agree that it cannot be a political issue; it is much more than that. It is a whole-of-society issue that we have to come together on.
Rather than getting into the issues there, let us reflect on the fact that every single member sitting in this Chamber would at one stage have had somebody who came into their office needing assistance—a woman who was fleeing a domestic situation or a woman who needed to start her life again. It sometimes happens as a matter of urgency. The challenge that we have—certainly the challenge that I know I have had, and that I am sure the other 92 members in this place would have had—is when somebody turns up and says they need emergency support. Trying to find the emergency support is difficult, and sometimes it can be something as simple as getting some shelter or getting some food.
We cannot have a situation where a woman flees her home with her children and is left to sleep in a car and fend for herself, unable to find somewhere to find some peace and comfort. When we talk about resources, they are the initial resources that we need. Where do we go in terms of providing the initial emergency support that is required? All they need is to have a little bit of safety. If somebody is fleeing a domestic violence situation, they are doing so because they have nowhere else to go and because they have got to a breaking point. They cannot then come to us, to another agency or to a community support group and then have nowhere to go. That is the first thing that we need to do.
I say again that this cannot be a political issue. It is much bigger than politics. It goes to the very heart of what we are as a society, what we stand for and what we believe in. Every one of us can make a great speech; there is no doubt about that. But it is more than a speech; it is the actions that we do. There is a complete desire across both sides of the House and the other place to ensure that we resolve those issues. I have heard people talk about our refuges and support services being funded better. That is a lived experience that we have as members. We know people are going through this. Where do you give the opportunities for the emergency support?
There has been a lot of reference to the demonstration, the protests and, of course, the petition. At the time I spoke a number of times about the issue of what we need to do as a society, and I have not changed that. I am not just speaking as a father of daughters; I am also speaking as a person who I would like to think has a voice in society. We have to use our profile here to do the best we can. We cannot simply say we have to let it go and hope for the best. Everyone hopes for the best, but we actually need a guiding hand. That is where parliaments—and this one in particular—can take a leadership role. I know that there is talk about where you do it in the education system and so forth and that is probably a debate to have another time, but we do have to start with education.
It is much more than simply saying we will educate and raise awareness. Where is the support? That is what it ultimately comes down to: People need to have support. We can say to women, "You shouldn't put up with this situation and you can leave." Where will they leave to? Where will they go? Why will they make that call? Where will their kids go to school? All of those are considerations. It is all good and well that we say we need to make a change, but it is up to every single one of us in this place to actually be that leading hand. I conclude by acknowledging two of my local organisations that do outstanding work: the Muslim Women's Association with their Linking Hearts—of which I am a very proud ambassador—as well as the No Excuse for Abuse march that happens in Lakemba, where we stand to say no to domestic and family violence.
Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (12:58:49):
In reply: I thank every member who stood in this place and talked about some really tough issues. I thank everyone who urges governments of any flavour—of any tier—to do more to assist victim-survivors and to ensure that we fund programs and services that work in the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault. I thank those who, day in and day out, work in responding to sexual assault and domestic violence. I stand by my original motion. I acknowledge the amendment of the member for Auburn. I call on the Premier to urgently meet with representatives from the NSW Women's Alliance to progress the plan that experts have urged the Government to implement to address sexual and domestic violence in New South Wales. These are life and death matters. We need more than piecemeal responses to these monumental and dangerous issues. We need to do more.
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Gurmesh Singh):
The member for Blue Mountains has moved a motion, to which the member for North Shore has moved an amendment, to which the member for Auburn has moved an amendment. The question is that the amendment of the member for Auburn to the amendment of the member for North Shore be agreed to.
The House divided
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Gurmesh Singh):
The vote being equal, I give my casting vote with the noes and declare the question to be resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the member for Auburn to the amendment of the member for North Shore negatived.
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Gurmesh Singh):
The question now is that the amendment of the member for North Shore be agreed to.
The House divided.
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Gurmesh Singh):
The numbers being equal, I give my casting vote with the ayes and declare the question to be resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Gurmesh Singh):
The question now is that the motion as amended be agreed to.
The House divided.
Motion as amended agreed to.
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Gurmesh Singh):
I will now leave the chair. The House will resume at 2.15 p.m.