Michelle Lensink

Domestic Violence

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for the Status of Women a question on the domestic violence death review process.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The minister issued a press release on 20 October, announcing improvements to the domestic violence death processes and, in that media release, stated that a senior research officer would be employed in the Coroner's Office. I quote:

The position for the dedicated officer which was funded in the state budget will be advertised in the next fortnight.

I think it is fair to say that improvements to domestic violence processes share bipartisan and, indeed, multipartisan support from members across this chamber. However, I have been unable to find a position description advertised for the position that was announced. My questions to the minister are:

1. Has the position, in fact, been advertised and, if not, when will it be?
2. Will it be a full-time position?
3. Will it be a temporary or permanent position?
4. What is the salary range?
5. Where will the officer physically be located; will that be at the Coroner's Office or at the Office for Women?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for the City of Adelaide) (14:32): Indeed, the South Australian government has worked very hard to put in a number of strategies to help ensure that future domestic violence deaths are prevented. We did announce the position for a research and investigation officer in relation to the South Australian Coroner's Office to look into domestic violence related deaths in this state.

The Coroner's Office has been working in conjunction with both the Office for Women and also the Attorney-General's Department to put together, I think, a person specification statement and to commence the implementation of that position. The recruitment process has commenced. The position was advertised in The Advertiser on 30 October 2010. The new position will work with the Coroner and will complement other initiatives in relation to the government's Women's Safety Strategy, such as Family Safety Framework, etc., to ensure a positive working relationship across services.

The position will research and investigate opened and closed deaths related to domestic violence and will work as part of the Coroner's Office team. The position will be located at the Office for Women rather than at the Attorney-General's Department so that we have control over that position. If the Coroner believes that the cause or circumstances of death are a matter of substantial public importance, particularly if they relate to public health and safety, he can decide to hold an inquest. Inquests must be conducted where death has occurred in custody. In cases where an inquest is not deemed necessary or desirable, the Coroner then can make a finding as to the cause of death. This section of the Coroners Act precludes the Coroner from making recommendations.

Where an open case progresses to an inquest, the Coroner has a variety of legislative requirements to complete as outlined in section 25 of the Coroners Act. I am advised that, when an open case involves domestic violence situations, a senior research officer will assist the Coroner in his investigation. I am advised that the research officer's reviews of closed cases will include the examination of data collected from relevant case files and from the national coronial information system.

The data interrogation may reveal manner of death, sex, age, ethnicity and location. The data and narrative collected from police briefs, medical reports and specialist opinion may identify points of intervention, action taken by agencies, points of collaboration between agencies and also social indicators in identifying possible risk factors.

It is also my understanding that this research officer will have the opportunity to overview a number of closed cases. The position is a full-time one; there is funding for it into the four years of the forward estimates. I am also advised that the position is advertised as an ASO7.

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