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Statutes Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (17:08): I rise to speak on the Statutes Amendment (Domestic Violence) Bill. The bill introduces a new offence of choking, suffocation or strangulation and a presumption against bail if an individual is charged with this offence and in other circumstances relating to domestic abuse situations. The bill allows for evidence to be given by way of a recorded statement in some circumstances, and makes changes to intervention orders to expand cases where intervention orders can be issued. Penalties for repeated breaches of an intervention order are also increased under the bill.

I commend the government on moving this bill, which tackles an issue that is so prevalent in our community. Domestic abuse is an epidemic in this country. This year there have been more women who have been killed due to violence than motor vehicle fatalities in our state. On average, a woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.

It is very fitting that we are speaking about this today as it is the third day of the United Nations' 16 days of activism against gender-based violence which began on 25 November, also White Ribbon Day. Whilst it is commendable that this bill goes some way to tackle some of the issues relating to domestic abuse and domestic violence, the conversation needs to be had as to what more we can do to tackle the issue. For example, I know of constituents who have intervention orders against their partner or former partner. The intervention orders usually apply, not only to themselves but also to their children and are sometimes put in place as a result of the victim experiencing violence against them.

These violent incidents include incidents where the victim is nearly killed and where the children have witnessed these actions. However, I understand that in the Family Court access to children takes precedence and victims are forced to interact with those who have perpetrated violence against them. Notwithstanding intervention orders where the perpetrators are not allowed contact with the children, the Family Court can make rulings where access is granted and the perpetrators are allowed visits, sometimes unsupervised, with children even though they have exhibited very violent behaviour in the past. This is certainly an area of concern which should be investigated further.

Similarly, the nature of domestic abuse is not just about isolated incidents. The vast majority of domestic abuse cases occur with a pattern of behaviour. Victims are exposed to behaviour which most would categorise as unacceptable in a lot of cases. This behaviour gets worse over time. However, because of the prolonged exposure and psychological manipulation, victims often do not see the behaviour for what it is. In many cases, they are made to feel stupid for questioning the matter and often justify the actions within the relationship. As such, there may be scope to look at domestic abuse holistically rather than individual, isolated incidents of assault. Doing so would acknowledge that domestic abuse is different to other cases of assault.

As part of this, on behalf of Advance SA, I introduced a bill last month to have controlling and coercive behaviour recognised as a criminal offence, as controlling and coercive behaviour is often a precursor to physical violence and the effects of the nonviolent behaviour can linger much longer after the physical injuries have healed. I thank all members who have been in contact with me and my office on this bill and am heartened by the interest. I advise that I am continuing consultation and envisage I will not be progressing with the bill until next year. With that, I support the passage of this bill.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.