THOUSANDS of cases of family violence are in the spotlight as a new Domestic Violence Bill moves one step closer to becoming law.
The Domestic Violence Orders (National Recognition) Bill has just passed the Legislative Assembly and will enable WA to participate in a national scheme to recognise domestic violence restraining orders across the country, no matter which state or territory they have been taken out in.
Police figures show that from 2015-16, more than 53,000 cases of domestic violence were reported in WA, and White Ribbon statistics estimates one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner.
White Ribbon also estimates one in four children are exposed to domestic violence.
Armadale MLA Tony Buti has been a long-time advocate on the issue, and said it is time for WA to come to the party for the new national recognition scheme.
“Women and children who have been subjected to domestic violence are traumatised. A national recognition scheme avoids re-traumatising the situation, and reduces the ability for a perpetrator to know the whereabouts of the victim,” Dr Buti said.
During debate on the Bill, Belmont MLA Cassie Rowe spoke about the devastating impact of domestic violence on young people.
“When I went around and spoke to some of the schools, I was really horrified to hear principals say to me that in some incidences, children are presenting to school with post traumatic stress syndrome symptoms and high levels of anxiety because of what they’re seeing in the home,” Ms Rowe said.
The Belmont MLA shared a story of a local boy she saw mere months ago breaking down in the sick bay of his school.
“I said to the principal, I’m asking as a mum, ‘Is that boy okay?’ He said he’s in there every day crying because of what he sees at home, and we just let him take a moment, get himself together, when he’s ready he goes to class. Imagine how difficult it is for that child to learn when they have to spend half the morning in the sick bay to get themselves together.”
Clinical psychologist and director of therapeutic services at the George Jones Child Advocacy Centre in Armadale Amanda Paton said while legislation should go further, the new Bill is a step in the right direction.
“We’ve had cases where this type of scheme would work, (where someone has) had restraining orders in other states or territories, come over to WA and they’ve not held, or they thought the restraining order applied when it didn’t,” Ms Paton said.
“A lot of families that we’ve worked with are a bit disheartened by the system.
“If they’ve found out they have to apply all over again, it’s almost like being re-traumatised, because you have to go through it all over again. For a lot of families, it’s a big enough step to actually take to acknowledge yes my partner is hurting us, he’s hurting me, he’s hurting the family.”
The George Jones Child Advocacy Centre is run by Parkerville Children and Youth Care, and services families facing domestic violence all through the south-east metro corridor.
Ms Paton said one of the biggest things people can do to combat family violence is acknowledge what is going on.
“I think a lot of people, they want to stick their heads in the sand, they want to think it happens over there, that it couldn’t possibly be happening in their neighbourhood,” she said.
“Even the most affluent, high profile and pretty neighbourhoods you can find, they all have child abuse and family violence lurking behind the scenes.
“You can’t change it until you acknowledge it’s an issue we all need to deal with.”
Ms Rowe said people need to hear the personal stories behind the figures.
“The language we use around it is quite clinical. The terminology of family and domestic violence puts this clinical veneer over it. At the end of the day, this is murder. This is terrorism in the home.
“These are real life women and children experiencing horrors,” she said.
The State Government is planning a new metropolitan refuge and new regional refuge along with one-stop hubs for women to seek help when facing family violence.
Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk said the new Bill’s introduction is symbolic of the priority the state government is giving to addressing family and domestic violence in WA.
The national domestic violence restraining order recognition scheme is due to begin on November 25, and will provide instant legal protection across state and territory boundaries.