Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

(Question Time, 20 June 2018, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

My question is directed to the Minister for Family and Community Services, Minister for Social Housing, and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. What is the Government doing to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBTI] victims of domestic violence and sexual assault?

Ms PRU GOWARD (GoulburnMinister for Family and Community Services, Minister for Social Housing, and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault) (15:20:19): I thank the member for Sydney for his question. The member has previously written to me about domestic violence and sexual assault in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBTI] community, and I acknowledge his strong commitment to supporting those affected by these terrible crimes. This Government is committed to ensuring all victims of domestic and family violence and sexual assault have a clear path to safety. We are committed to helping all victims, no matter where they live in New South Wales, no matter what their gender preference, to rebuild their lives free from violence.

We know that some communities are at higher risk and can face barriers in reporting domestic violence or sexual assault. It was this Government that launched the NSW Domestic Violence Blueprint for Reform, which recognises the importance of appropriate support for high-risk communities that can be especially vulnerable to violence. Earlier this month I met with ACON. I can confirm that ACON will continue its work to prevent domestic violence in the LGBTI community. I am also pleased to advise the House today that ACON's work in violence prevention and victim support will be expanded to also include sexual assault under the Government's upcoming sexual assault strategy.

The Government's approach to tackling domestic violence in New South Wales is making a real difference. I welcome today's release by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research [BOCSAR] that shows a significant decline in domestic violence in New South Wales. BOCSAR found that the significant drop in victimisation over the eight-year period indicates there has been "a real change" in prevalence of domestic violence. That is a wonderful result for all of our communities. This Government is a making a real difference to the lives of domestic violence victims in New South Wales. We are supporting people to rebuild their lives while targeting the perpetrators of this crime like never before. The same BOCSAR analysis found that the annual rate of domestic assault incidents occasioning grievous bodily harm—a very severe form of injury—fell by 15.5 per  cent from 2008-09 to 2015-16. This Government is tougher than ever on the criminals who perpetrate domestic and family violence but we know we can do better.

It is wonderful to see the decline in the number of victims, a reduction that BOCSAR noted has not been recorded elsewhere in Australia. There is always more work to do and we will continue to provide more support services and accommodation options for domestic and family violence victims. Our investment of more than $390 million over four years will support survivors to rebuild their lives and also hold perpetrators to account. That is in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars the Government spends each year to combat domestic and family violence through mainstream services in justice, police, health, child protection, social housing and homelessness.

Our investment in the 2018-19 budget includes five new Staying Home Leaving Violence sites, to support domestic violence victims and their children to remain safely at home while the perpetrator is removed, and $44.1 million over three years in new funding to continue reducing domestic and family violence reoffending and holding perpetrators to account. There is also $20.6 million for Safer Pathway, which will be statewide by the end of 2018. The budget also commits $26.5 million in this financial year for Start Safely, to help people escaping violence move into stable housing in the private rental market. I remind members that that subsidy is available to enable domestic violence survivors to get back on their feet and to re-establish themselves.

Further, there is $10.7 million for the Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy service to continue to support victims through the difficult criminal justice process and $7.2 million for Australia's first police high‑risk offender teams targeting domestic violence perpetrators. The Government will invest more than $200 million over four years aimed at supporting victim survivors of sexual assault, working to prevent instances of assault from occurring and ensuring perpetrators are held accountable. In 2018-19 alone, $54 million will be spent to address sexual assault across the health, justice and Family and Community Services clusters. There is new funding for the Law Reform Commission's review of consent laws, which I recently announced together with the Attorney General, and new funding as part of the NSW Sexual Assault Strategy for community awareness campaigns and education about sexual assault, sexual harassment and consent. 

As part of the NSW Sexual Assault Strategy, there is new funding for community awareness campaigns and education about sexual assault, harassment and consent. Prevention and early intervention clearly start with an appreciation of how we need to establish a culture of respect and that begins with us as leaders of New South Wales. The Government's record in tackling domestic violence and sexual assault is a proud one. Our initiatives will continue to provide more support services for victims, tougher interventions for perpetrators and, as importantly, we will continue to champion better community awareness about these crimes and the importance of the role we can all play in preventing them.