Motions: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Wednesday November 14, 2018

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (11:09): I rise in support of this motion and commend the member for Reynell for introducing it. On 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women also marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign. This global movement was originally started by activists at the Women's Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and is now coordinated by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership. The campaign is designed to unite organisations and communities across the world to increase awareness of and advocate and share knowledge on this important issue. The colour orange, which is the theme colour for this campaign, represents a brighter future for all women and girls, free from violence.

In my electorate of Mount Gambier, there will be a different event for each day of that time frame, whether it is a community breakfast or networking or morning tea events. One of the main principles of this campaign is recognising that everyone in society has a role to play in ending violence against women and girls. Domestic violence not only has a devastating impact upon victims and families but has a tremendous impact on entire communities. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the positive work that is going on in this space in my electorate of Mount Gambier and in the surrounding Limestone Coast region. Before I do that, I have to begin by talking about a tragedy.

In 2007, South Australia was shocked by the senseless murder of Glenys Heyward, a Mount Gambier mother who was murdered by her former partner after enduring years of abuse at his hands. The repercussions of that crime highlighted the isolation that women living in regional areas face when dealing with family violence and highlighted the gaps in the state system. Statistics show that women in regional areas are more likely to experience domestic and family violence and that they face different pressures to those living in metropolitan areas. Their isolation makes them less likely to seek intervention and help.

As an aside, it was brought home to me that, particularly for women who are on farms where there are licensed or sometimes unlicensed firearms, the presence of firearms increases the risk, as well as the isolation, of those suffering from domestic violence in remote and regional settings. I think this is a very important point to make, along with the lack of services. Again, their isolation makes them less likely to seek intervention and help.

The year before Glenys's death, Susie Smith began working with the Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service. If you are fighting for something, Susie is someone you want in your corner. She is a passionate advocate for proactive change. In her words, we need to be loud and proud on this issue, not silent. Every month, the Limestone Coast Family Violence Action Group meets. Around the table with Susie are Sonya Mezinec from the Victim Support Service (she has just been re-elected as a councillor in Mount Gambier—congratulations, Sonya); Jane Smith, a victim liaison officer from SAPOL; Brooke Wilson from; Craig Wood from Centacare; and Nik Tilley from the Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service.

The group raises awareness of and provides education about the harms of family violence and also works together to facilitate the prevention of family violence by discussing individual cases and how each organisation is assisting. This collaboration, and information sharing between local services, is critical. The group's work feeds through to the Limestone Coast Violence Against Women Collaboration, which is a strategic group of key operational staff who meet a few times a year to discuss initiatives, monitor service gaps in the region and identify where funding can be best allocated. Susie said that, in the 12 years since the tragic Glenys Heyward case, she has seen sweeping changes in the way domestic violence is tackled and addressed in South Australia. She said, 'We can now have faith in the system.'

When a woman approaches the Limestone Coast DV Service in a crisis situation, her case manager can put her in touch with a range of support systems and networks designed to help her, not only in the short term but, crucially, also in the long term. In short, there are frameworks to support her, including the Family Safety Framework, an integrated service response to high-risk cases of domestic violence that was introduced statewide in 2013.

In 2015, the domestic violence serial offender database was introduced so government and non-government agencies can share information about serial offenders. The database and the framework were the outcome of coronial inquests into murders in this state. Now the opportunities for safer and more sustainable outcomes are greater for those dealing with family violence. Susie is very pleased that the Marshall Liberal government is consulting and working with groups in the sector to direct funding to where it is needed most.

Susie and I believe that this government understands implicitly that the issue of domestic violence in the Limestone Coast has to be tackled differently than in Adelaide or, in fact, other regional areas, such as Coober Pedy. I join Susie in commending the Minister for Human Services, the Hon. Michelle Lensink, and Assistant Minister for Domestic and Family Violence Prevention, Carolyn Power, for listening to regional spokespeople in the DV roundtable series conducted in the South-East not that long ago.

I congratulate the Marshall Liberal government on its significant funding investment to tackle this issue, including expanding the Women's Safety Services SA crisis hotline and the development of a personal protection app. Last week, I spoke in support of the Statutes Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill, which amends legislation to support victims, broaden definitions and expand police and court powers.

In the memorial garden at the back of the Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service office is a bench with a plaque with Glenys' name on it, and Susie says that as the service does its day-to-day business Glenys is always in their minds. The women she is able to help escape the cycle of family violence bring her back into the office every day, just as much as the women who, unfortunately, have slipped through the cracks.

Everyone in society has a role to play in the elimination of violence against women, but it is people like Susie Smith who can inform and guide the state government on how to best tackle domestic violence, both now and into the future. I encourage all people in the community to participate in the 16-day campaign.