Domestic Violence Units

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for the Status of Women a question about domestic violence units.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: My office has been in contact with Mrs Toni Castley of West Coast Security Telephones & Data, who has the only contract in South Australia from the SAPOL Family Violence Investigation Section to coordinate, supply and monitor domestic violence units, which, for the benefit of members, can be activated if a person is under duress.

The activation sends a signal to the security control room, which immediately contacts the Police Communications Centre to dispatch a control unit to attend the situation. If SAPOL assesses an individual or her children to be at high risk of domestic violence incidents, SAPOL directs them to West Coast Security for assistance. West Coast Security currently monitors almost 80 units throughout South Australia.

This company has made the system more cost-effective where it can by, for example, loaning out older machines for free and simply charging for the monitoring. Mrs Castley has advised my office that some women have had to decline the monitoring service simply because it is too expensive for them.

The member for Flinders wrote to the minister on 19 May and asked whether the minister could advise whether any government or non-government agencies can assist victims of domestic violence with the initial cost of purchasing such units. The response was that the Department for Families and Communities has a component of funding for safety measures to enable women and children to remain safely in their homes.

Given that SAPOL has already assessed these women and children as at high risk of domestic violence, will the minister ensure that there is some funding to enable people to access domestic violence units, if they are assessed as such?

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) (14:23): Indeed, I am aware of these domestic violence duress units. I think there was a report in the paper not very long ago. When I read that report, I asked for a report back to me on the scope of use of these units, their cost-effectiveness and how effective they are under which particular circumstances. I have requested that information and am awaiting that.

I have been advised that DFC will provide some funding for these units. I am happy to take that part of the question on notice in terms of the actual amount and bring it back to the chamber. As I said, I am happy to do that in light of the inquiries that I have already made about the current use and effectiveness of these units.

The other aspect is that, currently, the state government has invested around $800,000 in a public campaign focused on enhancing respectful relationships, and that is particularly focused on younger people. There is a particular group of younger men that we have identified amongst whom there is a reasonably high risk of violence. I understand the campaign is focused on that demographic. As I said, that is a mainstream general public campaign, and it is about to commence fairly soon. Also, we have set aside some grant project funding for others who might have trouble accessing those mainstream messages, particularly indigenous groups, refugee groups and other ethnic groups. We have set some money aside to ensure that the message about respectful relationships is portrayed in relevant ways to other cultures.

Of course, the domestic violence legislation is well under way and, as I have reported in this place before, that looks at changing our approach to domestic violence in quite a different way. At the moment, where there is an incident at a residence, the police go out and intervene, and it can result in removing the woman and children from that household and placing them in a safe place. The model we are looking at, in fact, removes the perpetrator from the house and leaves the woman and children in their home.

We have also looked at a range of strategies around ensuring that when we do that 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. If stalking has been happening, it might mean pruning and cutting back bushes and shrubbery around the house so that visibility is easier. It could mean a wide range of things but, certainly, we have looked at ensuring provisions for securing the woman in the house.

As members can see, we are approaching this most important and serious issue in a range of different ways to ensure that women and their children who suffer from domestic violence are kept safe.