Social Responsibility

Addressing domestic violence more vital than ever – new parliamentary inquiry

Health Industry Hub | June 10, 2020 |
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News that the Federal Government is to set up a new parliamentary inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence, and include the impact of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders amongst its terms of reference, is welcomed particularly given the failure of the most recent senate inquiry into domestic violence.

Deaths, injuries and abuse from Family and Domestic Violence continue at horrific and unacceptable levels in Australia.

The inquiry by the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs came under fire from all fronts, including one of its own committee members, after delivering its report three months ahead of its 13 August deadline and failing to hold hearings, seek submissions or hear from witnesses.

The Law Society supported the view of our national body, the Law Council of Australia (LCA), that the inquiry lost a valuable opportunity to examine and improve existing programs and protect vulnerable members of our community, particularly during the pandemic.

Like the LCA, the Law Society is pleased that the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs is to conduct a new, more comprehensive inquiry.

This adds to a more significant inquiry in to Australia’s Family Law System. The Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System was appointed by resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives to report on the many areas of the family law which are currently failing, including the failure to protect women and children who have been subjected to domestic violence. The inquiry attracted over 1,000 submissions.

The new inquiry in to domestic violence will cover immediate and long-term measures to prevent violence against women and their children, and improve gender equality. It will also look at best practice and lessons learnt from international experience, the level and impact of co-ordination and accountability for services and policy responses across government and non-government agencies and business.

And, importantly, it will include the impact of COVID-19 public health requirements, such as stay-at-home orders, on the prevalence of domestic violence and provision of support services.

The social and economic impact of the pandemic is placing vulnerable women and children at increased risk. As the LCA has highlighted, 12 women have been killed in domestic violence incidents since COVID-19 lockdown measures were put in place in March.

For families in conflict, the risk of domestic violence is heightened by the additional stress that social isolation, job insecurity and financial strain are placing on vulnerable families and individuals.

“As we have been saying for many years now, combatting domestic and family violence requires a complex and coordinated response that spans all jurisdictions and human service providers and focuses on the best interests of the victims of family and domestic violence.

Hopefully the outcome of this new inquiry, along with the work of the new National Federation Reform Council, will change the way the Commonwealth and states and territories effectively and productively work together to combat family and domestic violence,” said Richard Harvey, President, Law Society of NSW.

Family and domestic violence support hotline

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