The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 15:17 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for the Status of Women a question relating to support for victims of domestic violence in public housing.
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: As a long-term White Ribbon Ambassador it was worrying to see in The Advertiser on 3 December that the number of public housing properties that have been modified to include door and/or window screens and locks due to domestic violence in 2014-15 had doubled over the previous 12 months to 68 properties, a number which is over triple the number of properties modified for this purpose in 2007-08. The reasoning for these modifications was due to, and I quote from The Advertiser article:
…reported cases of women being attacked in their homes by abusive ex-partners , including a woman who was raped by a violent ex-partner who broke into her home and another whose ex-husband broke down her front door and damaged her garage door.
These concerning numbers are further inflated when taking into account the State Merit Award-winning Staying Home Staying Safe program run by the Victim Support Service, which also provides home security upgrades for victims of domestic violence, with the number of people accessing assistance increasing to 1,020 in 2014-15, more than double the 475 clients in 2011-12. The budget allocation for the government's own program has apparently risen by almost $100,000 for 2015-16, indicating the predicted rise in women needing to access this vital program.
I commend the government for offering this assistance, and its partnership with the federal government to reduce the occurrences of domestic violence; however, it is also important to remember the significant emotional and mental impact these appalling experiences have on the victims and the necessity to offer adequate support to these women in need. My questions are:
1.What other support is the government offering women who have become victims of domestic violence in public housing beyond structural additions and alterations to their residence, such as financial, emotional and mental health support which is critical for women who have been through such appalling experiences?
2.What support does the government offer to non-government programs such as those offered by the Victim Support Service, and other organisations that offer these home security upgrades, and financial, emotional and mental health support?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) (15:20 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important questions. Indeed, we have seen an increase in public awareness around issues dealing with violence against women and children and a change in public attitude in terms of the level of tolerance for that sort of behaviour. What we have seen is a significant increased reporting of this violence, so I am not surprised to hear the figures that the Hon. John Dawkins outlined. We know that domestic violence has no limits; it knows no socioeconomic boundaries or cultural or ethnic limitations. Unfortunately, it is rife throughout our community.
In relation to women in public housing, they have access to the full menu of services that all women in this state have—and there are a number of them: state, federal and also a number of services run through NGOs, from our Family Safety Framework to the MAPS database and court assistance. There is a whole raft of services.
As the Hon. John Dawkins mentioned, Staying Home Staying Safe is a scheme that, coupled with intervention orders, helps remove perpetrators from the family home and secures women and their children in the home, and there is a range of measures that women have access to through that. For instance, they can have the locks changed; they can have a security door installed; they can have sensor lighting put in place; they can have someone come in to cut back trees and plants so that there is easy sight of anyone who might be lurking in bushes and what have you, particularly if someone is known to be a bit of a stalker.
There is a whole raft of measures that are available to assist women and their children to stay safe in the family home. I would certainly urge those women who need assistance to be brave and to come forward and make sure that they access the supports they need to assist them.