10 June 2021

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (12:03): I move:

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.

Right now, Penrith Women's Health Centre is facing an increasing demand for case management support for women,yet funds for meeting this extra demand 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 budget support. 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 meet demand, will be slashed by half. It is critical that the Government act immediately to assist Penrith Women's Health Centre. Living with domestic abuse is harrowing for anyone and for some members of our community with language and cultural differences to negotiate, it can seem impossible to find a way out.

In my role as shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and shadow Minister for Women, I recently hosted, in this Parliament, a roundtable forum to focus on the challenges faced by victims of domestic violence from multicultural communities. The roundtable forum gathered 30 women representing more than 20 frontline services 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 that needs careful attention for its unique challenges. We also agreed that current systems and structures have to change to include all 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 violence support 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 be aware 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 temporary visas. Too often access to services is dependent on one's visa status. As a result 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 case management 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 reforms needed 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 reforms that 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 and demand the close attention of the Government.

In order to introduce changes to evidence and procedural law we need to make the court process more accessible, safer and trauma-informed for sexual assault complainants. We need to better recognise sexual assault in the context of domestic and family violence in our laws, including introducing jury directions on domestic violence. 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,Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia, including a rollout of whole-of-school-community education on consent.