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Senate inquiry ‘missed opportunity’, domestic violence service says

By Ivy Jensen

A SENATE committee tasked with examining domestic violence in Australia has missed an opportunity to understand and address a scourge which has killed 25 women this year, the Centre for Non-Violence says.

Central Victoria’s leading specialist domestic and family violence response service said the committee needed to address how governments can best support, contribute to and drive the social, cultural and behavioural shifts required to eliminate violence against women and their children, as set out in the terms of reference.

The Senate referred an inquiry into domestic violence with particular regard to violence against women and their children to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee in February, following the deaths of Brisbane mother Hannah Clarke and her children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey, in February.

The committee was given six months to examine the issue, but last week delivered the report three months ahead of schedule — without input from the specialist domestic and family violence sector.

CNV chief executive Margaret Augerinos said the report failed to address the terms of reference and was a missed opportunity to ``really get to the heart of how we start to address the drivers of domestic violence and gender inequality''.

“This report has not progressed the conversation about violence against women and children in any way,” she said.

“It doesn’t add anything new to our understanding of the drivers of family violence, how to prevent it, or even make any recommendations about how we need to move forward into the future.

“There is no advice around what government and community need to do, to address the social and cultural behaviours required to eliminate violence against women or children.

“It does not address any of the systemic failures, or the reasons that resulted in the death of Hannah and her children.

“The committee has not explored the court systems, community and social response, the ‘good bloke’ narrative — this was a chance to ask ‘what failed here, what could have been different?' ”

Ms Augerinos is disappointed the voices of women and children with lived experience were not heard, and the sector was not invited to make submissions.

“It was also an opportunity to listen to advocates, and how working to prevent family violence can be informed through that lens,” she said.

“Specialist women’s services and peaks across the country have very clear views about what and how change needs to happen, and for that not to have been included is a missed opportunity.”

CNV encourages the COAG Women’s Safety Council to:

● Fully fund the specialist services women and children rely on to be safe;

● Put kids’ safety first in the family law system;

● Ensure women and children facing major safety risks can be identified and referred correctly by frontline workers in health, social, family and community services;

● Improve AVO standards so women and children can rely upon them for their safety, and perpetrators are held accountable for ongoing patterns of violence and abuse; and

● Ensure everyone’s calls for help can be heard.

● Anyone experiencing domestic violence can call the Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service on 1800 015 188, National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line on 1800 737 732 and the Centre for Non-Violence in Bendigo on 1800 884 038.

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