Michelle Lensink

Domestic Violence

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for the Status of Women a question regarding the government's domestic violence policies.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The South Australian government launched its A Right to Safety strategy in December 2011 and, referring directly to the Office for Women website, the strategy reaffirms the government's commitment to reducing violence against women as follows:

Early intervention work focused on preventing violence through to community education and awareness, as well as imp roving service responses to women experiencing violence.

During the inquest into the death of Chloe Valentine it was disclosed that Families SA was aware that Chloe Valentine's mother, Ashlee Polkinghorne, was in a relationship with a convicted violent offender, yet it failed to intervene because it wanted to protect the offender's privacy. Families SA stated that disclosure of this information would have breached departmental confidentiality protocols. My questions to the minister are:

1.Has she raised any concerns following the publication of this information?

2.Is this Families SA policy consistent with the government's A Right to Safety strategy?

3.Can the minister explain why the rights of an individual's privacy, being a convicted violent offender, took priority over the safety of a woman and her child?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:32 :15 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. This government has taken on the issue of domestic violence in a very serious way, and we have had a very active agenda around not only the prevention of domestic violence but also intervention to try to prevent domestic violence occurring in the first place, and to address those issues that underpin domestic violence, such as discrimination against women and the devaluing and disrespecting of women and girls.

I know I have spoken in this place on numerous occasions around the work that this government has done on the family safety framework, introducing it and rolling it out to all regions, a type of case management system that targets services around women who are assessed to be at high risk. We have also implemented a senior research officer in the Coroner's Court who expressly looks at domestic violence and domestic violence-related issues. We have introduced collaborations, which are an opportunity for the development of local regional prevention strategies in response to women experiencing domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and homelessness related to violence.

We have introduced a number of workplace domestic violence policies, which I have talked about in this place before, and of course recently taking a stand as a whole-of-government response to the findings of the State Coroner's inquest into the very tragic death of Zahra Abrahimzadeh. That introduced a number of new initiatives.

It introduced initial funding for a women's domestic violence court assistance service, which will meet in 2015, and will provide a greater level of support within the court system for victims of violence by providing assistance to help women deal successfully with court systems and increase their access to support. Legal officers will also provide support and advocate and advocate on behalf of women who may have difficulty applying for an intervention order or reporting a breach of an intervention order. The service will be free and obviously confidential.

We have also introduced an early warning system. The state government will introduce a system which will provide a circuit breaker in instances where a domestic violence service provider does not believe that appropriate responses to clients' needs have been received. This position will be placed in MAPS, where an across-government response to domestic violence is being coordinated. So, that should help address problems when they occur in a much more timely way.

We have also announced White Ribbon accreditation across our government agencies. I have also spoken in this place on several occasions on intervention orders and how useful they have been, and proposed changes to those. We want to strengthen elements around intervention orders where family orders exist, and in other areas, particularly for women who are trapped in lease obligations and where there are intervention orders in place. We are looking at offering greater protections to enable women not to escape their lease requirements but to be afforded better protection.

In relation to the specific case that the Hon. Michelle Lensink raises, an across-government response has been formulated, where all of government have worked at looking to formulate a response and address the tragic instances that the member cites and that have been reported in the media recently. I am well aware of the considerations that have been incorporated into that response. There are issues around confidentiality that have to be taken into consideration as well, and I know that minister Rankine is doing everything in her power to address those issues and to ensure that safe and quality services are provided for those children who need them.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:38 :16 ): I have a supplementary question arising out of the minister's response that there will be an all-of-government response: does she anticipate that, in future, information about any convicted violent offender may well be relayed to some of the agencies relating to the Office for Women and the projects that they undertake to try and better protect women and children?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:38 :51 ): I thank the member for her question. What this government seeks to do is to ensure that all relevant and available information is made available in the most timely way possible, and we seek to work to those ends. There are obviously a range of very complex issues surrounding that, but that is our aim.

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