Tackle this violence crisis

May 3, 2024 10:00 AM
Libby Mettam
WA Liberal Leader

It should come as no surprise that I fully endorse West Coast Eagles Chief, Don Pyke’s statement that “when it comes to violence against women the only acceptable figure is zero.” 

It is an abominable crime that robs individuals of their dignity, their autonomy, and their sense of safety in their own homes.

Behind closed doors, we know there are countless individuals continuing to suffer in silence; trapped in cycles of abuse that leave them feeling powerless and alone. 

The trauma inflicted on victims, the lack of community support services, and the lack lustre management of proven perpetrators is completely unacceptable.

Yet, the interventions always seem to be too little and too late. 

Across Australia, we have all been sickened by this crisis which is far more than just statistics. It is a stark reality faced by too many women – a reality that has already resulted in the death of 28 women in Australia this year alone.   

Its impact also reverberates far beyond its immediate victims. It tortures families, their neighbours and friends, strains our healthcare system, overwhelms our social services, and undermines the well-being of our community.

In 2023, Western Australia recorded its worst year ever for domestic violence, with an 11 per cent increase in family assault offences, and a 36 per cent increase in threatening behaviour against family members. There were also 15,198 breaches of violence restraining orders in2023, up 18 per cent from 2022. 

Western Australian Police statistics show family related offenses were up 40 per cent on the five-year average, while revelations from The West Australian yesterday highlight that just 6 of the 38 federally funded frontline domestic violence worker positions have been filled.

Quite simply, not enough is being done.

One significant action that the Labor Government could have taken was to introduce pivotal legislation on coercive control, in line with a commitment made by the Attorney General – and other Australian states – to implement such protective measures last year. This legislative step was a critical move towards safeguarding individuals from this insidious form of abuse, which manipulates and diminishes the freedom and dignity of its victims.

Unfortunately, despite these expectations and the clear need for such laws, there has been no progress. Instead, this Government’s ‘bigger priorities’ have been issues like the Casino (Burswood Island) Agreement Amendment Bill 2023, and the Perth Parking Management Amendment Bill 2023. I could go on!

The Labor Government did introduce a well-publicised trial of GPS trackers for high-risk offenders who had breached a family violence restraining order. I sincerely hope this has made adifference to the women affected.  

That trial finished in August 2022. But is ita priority?

In the two years since, you could be for given for thinking there has been more effort put into the tracking of sharks than perpetrators of domestic violence, and yet many more women are killed at the hands of the perpetrators of domestic violence than sharks kill people.  

We are still waiting for the legislation that mandates GPS tracking devices for breaches of family violence supervision orders imposed at bail, sentencing, parole, and post-sentence orders, to be introduced to parliament.

My vow was to turn this trial into legislation and mandate compulsory tracking of persons on bail for domestic violence or convicted offenders. This pledge involved more than doubling the number of WA offenders being actively monitored by authorities. This is something we must do.

Families are suffering, and children are being raised in fear.  

While the Labor Government subsequently adopted our policy, there is again no urgency in its implementation. What needs to occur for Premier Cook to take action?

My commitment is simple – a future Liberal Government will strengthen WA’s bail laws and parole laws to give women and families the protections they need.

This commitment follows the appalling revelations about the murder of Georgia Lyall by her ex-partner Luke Noormets, who was released on parole just over a year before he fatally shot her, before turning the gun on himself.

Too often the public are sickened by the light touch approach of our court system. In Noormets’ case he had been released early, despite having a history of violence against another partner, because his criminal record did not reflect a conviction for ‘actual violence’.

This week’s announcement of $96 million for victims and survivors of family domestic violence is a start, but much, much more needs to be done throughout the community. Likewise, we support National Cabinet’s announcement of $925million for domestic and family violence measures.

However, it shouldn’t take the Prime Minister dragging the Premier into a National Cabinet meeting to draw his attention to the issue. And it shouldn’t have taken thousands of victim survivors and supporters at rallies to bring the Prime Minister to the table in the first place. 

To address this scourge on society will take more than funding announcements. It will take a Premier and Ministers committed to treating this issue with the priority it deserves.

It will take policies that are followed-through, evaluated, re-evaluated, and updated, until our state statistics and constituent testimonials reflect a positive change. 

That is why I will ensure that a future Liberal Government I lead will work with social services organisations to ensure that survivors have the support and resources they need to rebuild their lives. We will hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and send a clear message that violence in any form will not be tolerated in our society. 

We will release a comprehensive plan heading into the next election to tackle this issue head-on and build on the commitments we have already made.

Every person deserves to live free from fear and violence, and that means making sure all Western Australians feel safe in their home.  

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