Zali Steggall MP calls for government action against domestic and intimate partner violence

12 February 2024


I move the motion relating to domestic and intimate partner violence in the terms in which it appears on the Notice Paper.


Domestic and intimate partner violence is a national crisis. Whilst impacting all genders, the casualties are overwhelmingly women. 64 women were allegedly killed by domestic violence in Australia in 2023. That means that on average, one woman per week is currently murdered by her current or former partner. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are three times more likely to experience violence than non-indigenous women and 11 times more likely to die due to assault and 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of that violence.


Despite successive governments’ well-meaning efforts, little progress has been made in 30 years. When I submitted this motion last week, the 4th of February, 6 women had already allegedly been murdered this year by their male partners. This is Australia. As of the 10th of February, that number is now eight. In 2021-2022, 5606 women were hospitalised due to family and domestic violence, an average of 15 women each day. If a person were being killed by any other means at this rate in this country, it would spark national outrage and be deemed a crisis and emergency. We have seen government react in such a way to recent High Court ruling when it came to immigration detention, needles in strawberries, one punch attacks; we see state and federal governments act with urgency when they feel that it requires it. Domestic and intimate partner violence is such a crisis. We need a crisis response, action, mobilisation of resources and urgent legislation. When another woman becomes a domestic violence statistic, we witness sympathy in this place and handwringing but not much more. Mere condolences will not suffice, we need tangible action.


In Warringah, Northern Beaches women's shelter is currently turning away approximately 25 women a month. Why? They are full. They need more affordable housing, more transitional and emergency accommodation. Women and Children First in Northern Sydney are funded to help 208 women a year. Last year they helped 836. There are less than 350 police domestic violence reports, yet the services are telling us more than double that number are seeking help. Our bureaucratic systems are not set up to protect women. I have relayed this resourcing issues directly to the state minister for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, Jodie Harrison, a few weeks ago. I have written to the Prime Minister just last week, seeking to discuss this national catastrophe and direct him and ask him to take more urgent action.


So, I called today through this motion on the Albanese government to urgently convene a crisis National Cabinet meeting of federal and state territory ministers to do the following: ensure that the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children is bringing about the required action because this plan is over a 10-year period, and we simply cannot wait till 2032 to realise whether or not it is working. We must have clear KPIs, clear progress, and change and increase action when required. Policies to prevent violence against women and children across Australia must be assessed against clear metrics of whether or not they are working. Time is of the essence. I call on the government to commission a review of all state criminal sentencing provisions and the use of character references for domestic violence and gender-based abuse, so that we can ensure they are fit for purpose and holding perpetrators of violence towards women to account. Judicial system, our sentencing laws are meant to be a deterrent. It is clearly not being a deterrent at the moment with the current laws. We cannot have any more of “the good bloke” defence, you know the one? The one that says, “oh, he is really just a normal guy, really nice guy. I don't understand how this happened”. Enough with the good bloke defence. We need to increase the capacity of specialist services to assist women fleeing domestic violence to stay alive, crisis support, appropriate accommodation; we need leave advice, advocacy and income support. In New South Wales, the progress of Staying Home Leaving Violence is a proven way to assist women, yet it is not funded and delivered across all local government areas. There are many concrete actions the government can do. So, I call on the Albanese government, continue and act with urgency on the crisis of domestic violence.