This is the urgent action NSW needs to end domestic violence - Women's Agenda

This is the urgent action NSW needs to end domestic violence

In the lead up to next Saturday’s state election, the NSW Women’s Alliance and the Men’s Behaviour Change Network of NSW have developed a blueprint explaining what the NSW government needs to do to respond to, prevent and ultimately put an end to domestic violence and sexual assault.

The aim of the report is to provide clear policy direction that will give NSW the best chance of stemming the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault within a generation.

The blueprint and list of election requests is titled A Safer State, and points to three key areas in which the state government needs to develop clear and effective policy measures.

Domestic Violence NSW CEO Moo Baulch spoke to Women’s Agenda about the development of the blueprint.

“A Safer State was inspired by a program introduced in the lead up to the state election in Victoria called No More Deaths. We decided to establish a similar framework of election requests by bringing together a group of different domestic violence and sexual assault organisations to develop a really precise roadmap for what needs to be done at a state level on this issue,” Baulch said.

Baulch said the current state of domestic violence and sexual assault in NSW demands urgent and effective action.

“With two big sets of reforms being rolled out – Going Home Staying Home and Safer Pathways – as well as an increased awareness due to the Victorian Royal Commission and the Rosie Batty effect, more women are seeking support for domestic violence and sexual assault than ever, meaning an already overstretched sector is under a peak amount of pressure,” she said.

“This means that right now in NSW, really urgent action needs to be taken.”

The first key area of A Safer State is high-level leadership, which focuses on the importance of senior politicians and community leaders developing and maintaining a strong, vocal public stance on domestic violence and sexual assault.

Some of the key policy recommendations within the leadership section of A Safer State are that the Premier drives a strong, clear prevention message, that the government appoint a Minister for the Prevention of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence and that the women’s portfolio be moved to the Department of Premier and Cabinet to facilitate a more coordinated government approach to the issue.

“Leadership is so important on this issue – if we have a Premier and community leaders who make unequivocal, no tolerance statements about domestic violence then attitudes will begin to change. Good leadership doesn’t cost much, and it makes a significant difference,” Baulch said.

The second key area relates to prevention and early intervention mechanisms, asking for a coordinated and long-term prevention plan for NSW. This involves constructing a clear plan for better educating young people about respectful relationships and creating a framework for training justice workers such as lawyers, police and judicial officers about the nature and dynamics of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“What we need now in NSW when it comes to prevention is a properly coordinated plan, which we have not adequately invested in until this point,” Baulch said.

The third key element of A Safer States relates to the service and support system for domestic and family violence – a sector that is under significant strain following deep cuts from the federal government.

The report asks for an investment of at least $100 million to the sector over the next three years. It asks for funding to all sections of the sector – from refuges to legal support services to housing and health services for victims. It also asks for the establishment of a specialist court system for domestic violence and sexual assault in the interests of keeping victims safe and better ensuring that justice is served. If $100 million seems like a significant investment consider that KPMG estimates that domestic violence costs NSW $4.5 billion a year.  

“We desperately need proper investment in these services, and we need the state government to step up to fill the gaps left by the severe federal cuts that have been introduced,” Baulch said.

“We cannot have the federal government taking massive chunks out of the sector and not have anyone taking responsibility for compensating for this. Somebody has to pick up the pieces.”

The purpose of the report is to provide MPs heading into next week’s election a clear roadmap for designing effective policies on domestic violence and sexual assault. It asks MPs to make a commitment to the measures outlined in the blueprint in order to put domestic violence and sexual assault on the agenda for the election, and also to make sure it remains on the agenda after the votes have been counted.

And it has worked – politicians from both sides of the aisle have made commitments to at least some policies recommended by A Safer State.

Last week, NSW Labor announced a comprehensive package of domestic violence prevention policies, including ones closely matching those put forward by A Safer State. Labor leader Luke Foley has committed to trialing specialist courts for domestic violence and sexual assault, moving the women’s portfolio to the Department of Premier and Cabinet and refunding the support and service sector for domestic violence and sexual assault.

Incumbent Premier Mike Baird has committed to installing a Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and SexualAssault if re-elected.

Baulch said it is encouraging that politicians have already made clear commitments on some of the policy measures detailed in A Safer State.

“We believe that if we can bring these requests to fruition, we can stop the deaths resulting from domestic violence and sexual assault within our lifetime,” Baulch said.

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