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Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a scourge in Australian society and it is a scourge that disproportionately impacts upon women and their children. 

The prevalence of domestic violence in our society is shocking especially when you consider that we are living in modern-day Australia. We live in a time where we have the entire breadth of human knowledge available on our smart phones, where we can speak in real-time to people on the other side of the globe, where our children are immunised against diseases that previously killed millions, and yet one in three women in Australia has experienced physical violence. It seems that there is no immunisation against violence. We still have so far to go.

I know that everyone in parliament is united in their condemnation of all forms of domestic violence. In fact, I was honoured to be approached to become an ambassador for White Ribbon Day, as have many others in this chamber and in the other place. I acknowledge the following South Australian ambassadors for the White Ribbon Foundation who serve in the state and federal parliaments.

They are: our Premier; our Speaker (the member for Croydon); the Minister for Regional Development; the Minister for Tourism, Recreation and Sport; the Minister for Police, the member for Stuart, who moved this motion; the member for Morphett; the Hon. Stephen Wade; the Hon. John Dawkins; the Hon. Russell Wortley, the President of the Legislative Council; the Hon. John Gazzola, the former president of the Legislative Council; the Hon. Jamie Briggs; the Hon. Christopher Pyne; the Hon. Robert Brokenshire; the Hon. Mark Butler; Tony Pasin MP; Nick Champion MP; the Hon. John Darley; the Hon. Gerry Kandelaars; and the Hon. Mark Parnell.

Clearly, the commitment from parliamentarians to stop incidents of violence against women crosses party lines. We are united in our condemnation of all forms of domestic violence and we are united in our search for solutions. According to the Chair for the Foundation to Prevent Violence Against Women and their Children, Her Excellency Natasha Stott Despoja:

The biggest risk factor for becoming a victim of sexual assault, domestic or family violence is being a woman.

This is simply unacceptable. This means that, from the moment they are born, over 50 per cent of South Australians are at a significantly higher risk of violence. This violence is insidious. While a coward's punch thrown in a nightclub is widely reported, domestic violence usually occurs behind closed doors. It is often ongoing, over many nights, many years, and even over multiple generations. Often, it takes a woman or a child to die at the hands of a partner or a former partner before we hear about the campaign of terror being carried out in our neighbourhoods every day of the week.

Only last week, we lost another brave South Australian woman to a violent partner in Encounter Bay. It is happening too often. The statistics are particularly disturbing: 89 Australian women were killed by their partners between 2008 and 2010; that is nearly one woman every week in that two-year period. As I said earlier, one in three women have experienced physical violence, and almost one in five women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. More than a third of women who experience violence by a previous partner said that their children had witnessed that violence. Domestic violence is so damaging and prevalent internationally that the World Health Organisation has labelled it an epidemic.

It is very appropriate that the member for Stuart move this motion in May, which as he so rightly points out is Domestic Violence Prevention Month; however, we need to address the issue of domestic violence in our community year-round. This is why I am joining with the member for Stuart in calling on the government to be proactive in their policies to reduce domestic violence here in South Australia. All South Australians have a right to be safe in their own homes. As parliamentarians, we need to work with communities, experts, advocacy groups, the police and health workers to find ways to reduce domestic violence in South Australia.