Michelle Lensink

Domestic Violence Alert Units

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for the Status of Women a question on Domestic Violence Alert Units.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have asked questions relating to domestic violence units before, particularly on 17 July when I asked about units that can be activated for immediate police help if a domestic violence victim is under duress.

On 10 September, the Attorney-General and the minister announced draft legislation that will focus on domestic violence situations, by requiring the perpetrator—rather than the victim—to leave the family home.

In answer to the question I asked in July relating to removing a perpetrator from the home, the minister stated:
We have also looked at a range of strategies around ensuring that when we do we make sure that the home is left safe. That might mean, for instance, putting new locks on the doors or putting outdoor sensor lighting in place.

The domestic violence units are neither inexpensive to purchase and hire nor to monitor. At this stage, apart from some philanthropic donations and the cost-effective operations by West Coast Security, it is being funded as a user pays system.

As a practical and efficient way of giving victims security and peace of mind, my questions for the minister are: in relation to funds that have been announced under that initiative on 10 September, are there any funds that may be available for such units to allow domestic violence victims access to them, and/or is the minister aware of whether, through the extension of the Family Safety Framework, there may be some capacity to provide them to domestic violence victims?

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 Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy) (14:28): I always welcome an opportunity to talk about the incredibly valuable work of this government to protect victims of domestic violence, particularly women and their children.
I have spoken on this issue of alert units before. It seems that we have the same old questions rolled out over and over again, but I will not complain about having to reply in a similar way because it gives me an opportunity to talk about the wonderful things that this government is doing to protect women and their children.

There has been significant legislative reform. Not very long ago we reformed the rape and sexual assault legislation. That legislation was critical in terms of ensuring that we made perpetrators more responsible for their actions and provided greater support for victims in the court system. The Attorney-General has recently tabled in parliament new domestic violence legislation, which is a major piece of reform. It is about ensuring a more timely response at people's homes when incidents occur.

It will give the police the power to put in place interim orders that will allow them on the spot to remove perpetrators from the family home. It will enable women to be secure in the family home rather than having to flee to a safe house. It will secure women in the family home with their children, and a number of means are available to them in relation to that, and I will come back to talk about those in just a minute. It also expands the definition of 'abuse'. No longer does it apply just to domestic partners: it can also include siblings—particularly older siblings, because 16 year old sons have, unfortunately, been known to abuse their mothers—and also grandparents and other family members.

It is a major piece of legislative reform and it is one other plank that this government has put in place to help protect women from domestic violence in particular. We have recently rolled out our Family Safety Framework, and I have already spoken at length in this chamber about that. It is a very important system of case managing women who are assessed to be at high risk. We have rolled that out recently. Of course, we have recently launched our public awareness Don't Cross the Line campaign. That is part of the approximately $800,000 this government has committed to increasing public awareness around the new legislative changes, as well as trying to change people's attitude to accepting violence in relationships.

Its focus is on respectful relationships. It is targeted particularly at young men and women between the ages of 18 and 24. No doubt members have already started to view some of these TV advertisements, which are quite confronting. Of course, we do not apologise for that: that is what we intended them to be. As part of that, alerts in particular are only one element of a whole menu of available different security measures. My current understanding is that Families and Communities has funds that assist in the securing of households.

As I said, our new reforms will assist us to secure more people in the family home, and changing locks on doors and improving the lighting around the house, etc., are some of the means by which they can do that. Personal alerts are only one strategy, and I have been informed that some councils provide them. I do believe (though I will have to check) that, under certain circumstances, some of the money available from Families and Communities to secure women could be spent on those alerts.

However, it is most important that we do not just manage the perception of safety: it is important that we monitor whether or not these alerts are really effective. I know that those people who have them on their person tend to feel safer, but it does not necessarily mean they are. We rely particularly on the police and other domestic violence expertise to assist us in devising the best types of security measures on a case-by-case basis. They are available to some people, and so are a wide range of other security measures.

Of course, the federal government has set aside funding to assist in reducing domestic violence, and some of those funds will be able to be used to assist in securing women and children in the safety of their homes.

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