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Domestic and Family Violence

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:46): I rise to speak on a scourge that is plaguing our country, namely, domestic abuse. At the beginning of the year, my office started undertaking an unusual task, that of counting dead people. Much like the wonderful work that is undertaken by the Red Heart Campaign, my office started taking note of violent deaths that occurred this year in Australia.

At the outset, it became clear that counting murders was not as straightforward as it seemed. There are many news articles where people are reported as dead or missing, but the circumstances in which they died are not given. There are also many news articles that allude to violent or suspicious circumstances and it is difficult to determine whether they should be counted or not.

The Red Heart Campaign has been counting dead people since 2015. The work undertaken by my office this year highlights how difficult a job this is, and the Red Hard Campaign should be commended for the work they do to shine a light on violence against women and children.

To date, there have been about 65 women, 24 children and 156 men killed in Australia this year. Of the 65 women killed, my office counted only four who were killed by other women. One woman was killed by her cleaner, another two young women were killed when they were struck by a car driven by one of their mothers, and the fourth woman was killed by her housemate.

Of the 156 men killed in Australia this year, my office counted seven men who were killed by women. Of these four circumstances, it could not be determined whether there was a relationship between the alleged offender and the victim. One was killed in what seems like a drug-fuelled attack, one was killed by a couple, and two were killed by their partners.

Of the men who were killed by men, the vast majority were killed by persons with whom they did not have a close personal relationship. Whilst many were known to each other, there was no intimate relationship between the offender and the victim, with the exception of the two aforementioned men who were killed by their partner. This includes one who claimed self-defence.

Of the women who were killed by men, the vast majority of the victims were in a close personal relationship with the alleged offender. Often, these were intimate relationships. This information merely confirms the statistics regarding domestic abuse that are often laid out. The vast majority of murders of both men and women are men. That is to say that men commit far more murders than women. The vast majority of victims know the person who murdered them; however, for women it is far more likely that they have been in a close personal relationship with the person who killed them.

Whilst the statistics I have spoken about today only relate to deaths, it is well known that these statistics can be correlated against non-fatal abuse. That is to say that victims of abuse are often in a close personal relationship with their offender. It should also be noted that there are many more assaults which go unreported and will never be included in any statistical data.

Obviously, abuse is at its worst when it results in a death. Domestic abuse usually follows a pattern whereby offenders use coercion to gain control of their victims. Over time, the abuse can increase from subtle manipulation to overt verbal abuse, to physical abuse and assault, and then finally to death. As legislators, we should be doing all we can to prevent things from escalating and working with those who administer the law to address domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse comes in many forms and it is only recently that people have felt comfortable about talking about what happens with close personal relationships. When I was younger, these things were never discussed and were kept behind closed doors. It was nobody's business to interfere in the home life of others. It is important we recognise this as a broad issue and implement creative solutions to address all aspects of the problem.