Legislative Council Wednesday 3 June, 2020
Ms FORREST question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT -
I appreciate the answer to the previous question on gender equality training. It seems like there is an awful lot of programs that women can attend. I am interested also - and I can put this on notice for another time - on the number of men who attend such training, because it is not just the women who need the training, it is the men as well.
This question follows on a little from that. With regard to the charges laid and convictions related to section 9 of the Family Violence Act 2004 relating to emotional abuse and intimidation, and is described in the act as -
a course of conduct that he or she knows, or ought to know, is likely to have the effect of unreasonably controlling or intimidating, or causing mental harm, apprehension or fear in, his or her spouse or partner -
a course of conduct includes limiting the freedom of movement of a person's spouse or partner by means of threats or intimidation.
(1) How many charges have been laid under this provision by years since the inclusion of this important provision?
(2) How many convictions have been made under this provision by you since the inclusion of this important provision and what penalties have been applied in each case?
(3) How has Tasmania Police monitored and/or identified cases where emotional abuse or intimidation as described in the act when responding to instances of family violence or other requests for information?
(4) Does the Premier accept and agree that achieving gender equality is central to addressing the scourge of family violence and domestic abuse?
Mr President, I thank the member for Murchison for her five questions.
(1) Tasmania Police has laid 195 charges under section 9, which is emotional abuse or intimidation in the Family Violence Act 2004, between the implementation of the act in December 2004 and 31 March 2020. The first charges under this section were laid in June 2008. The volume of charges under this section has increased since 2015, which was when amendments were made to the act to create a 12-month limitation period for this offence.
The charges are: 2008, 2; 2009, 4; 2010, 6; 2011, 4; 2012, 10; 2013, 8; 2014, 6; 2015, 7; 2016, 27; 2017, 38; 2018, 37; 2019, 37; and 2020, 9, but that figure is for the partial year from 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020.
(2) The following data refers to the number of charges finalised by a conviction, which is a guilty plea or found guilty in the Magistrates Court. The data excludes charges finalised in the Youth Court and one charge which was committed for trial in the Supreme Court as part of a larger matter.
Data is current as at 7 May 2020 -
• 2009 - one charge, one defendant
• 2010 - 4 charges, 4 defendants
• 2011 - 3 charges, 3 defendants
• 2012 - 3 charges, 3 defendants
• 2013 - 3 charges, 3 defendants
• 2014 - 4 charges, 4 defendants
• 2015 - 4 charges, 4 defendants
• 2016 - 8 charges, 8 defendants
• 2017 - 12 charges, 12 defendants
• 2018 - 19 charges, 18 defendants
• 2019 -19 charges, 18 defendants
• 2020 -7 charges, 7 defendants.
Note that the charges initiated in a particular year may not be finalised until a later year.
Where charges against the same person were on separate matters and were finalised on different dates, these instances are counted as separate defendants.
2 (a) Of the 87 charges under section 9 of the Family Violence Act 2004 for which a conviction was recorded, 77 were given global sentences and 10 were given sentences that related to a single charge only.
The sentencing outcomes for those 10 charges were: 1 by 12-month sentence of imprisonment; 2 by 6-month sentence of imprisonment; 3 by 12-month probation order; 1 by 6-month probation order; 1 by fine of $600; and 2 by undertaking under section 7(f) of the Sentencing Act 1997.
Where multiple sentences were handed down for the offence, only the most serious sentence is shown. For example, if the charge resulted in a probation order and a fine, this is counted under probation order, not under fine.
Global sentencing, where a single sentence may apply to multiple charges is widely used in Tasmania. Since no information is available on the other charges involved in a global sentence, it is advisable to exclude these from any sentencing analysis.
(3) Tasmania Police has a pro-intervention approach to family violence. Every family violence incident is assessed at the time to determine the type of family violence, including emotional abuse or intimidation and the level of intervention required. Such assessments are validated through the completion of a risk assessment sentencing tool to assist determinations.
Every family argument and family violence incident attended or reported to police is recorded on the Family Violence Management System - FVMS. Each report is required to be assessed and validated by a supervisor to ensure that the matter has been correctly identified and appropriate early intervention undertaken.
(4) FVMS report is scrutinised by the Family Violence Unit to ensure that appropriate actions have been undertaken, including safety assessments. Each matter is also referred to the weekly Integrated Case Coordination Committee meeting involving all Safe at Home partners to ensure that effective safety strategies are in place for family violence victims.
The high-risk incidences the Family Violence Coordination Unit reviews the case and provides further information, comprehensive intelligence and recommendations to support ongoing intervention and support. Emotional abuse or intimidation can involve complex and protracted matters. Due to this complexity, these matters can be referred to the Criminal Investigation Branch for investigation and liaison with external partner agencies. Each Family Violence Unit is managed by a detective inspector in each district. Police members, counsellors and support workers are perceptive to circumstances and the situations that constitute family violence by way of emotional abuse and intimidation and take appropriate steps to ensure policy and practices are adhered to and implemented.
All Safe at Home partners work collaboratively to ensure that a comprehensive whole of government approach is adopted to ensure the safety, wellbeing and interests of victims and affected persons of emotional abuse and intimidation.
(4) Family violence is completely unacceptable and the Government takes the issue of family violence against all Tasmanians very seriously. Family violence and sexual assault crimes are gender crimes and they have an unequal impact on women. Equality benefits women and men, as well as their families and the community. An increasing gender equality to prevent violence from occurring forms part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.
The national plan brings together the efforts of governments across the nation to make a real and sustained reduction in the levels of violence against women. Improving equality and respect between men and women can reduce the development of attitudes that can lead to family violence. Reducing family violence is everybody's responsibility. By holding perpetrators to account, encouraging behaviour change and challenging the attitudes that allow family violence to occur, we aim to lead to a reduction in family violence in Tasmania.
As the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, the minister is strongly committed to leading primary prevention actions that drive changes in the attitudes and behaviours that lead to family and sexual violence to reduce its incidences. Internationally significant research undertaken in Australia by Our Watch, Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety - ANROWS - and VicHealth, led by the publication of 'Change the Story', a shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia. Change the Story outlines the four gender drivers of violence - condoning the violence against women; men's control of decision-making limits women's independence; stereotype constructions of masculinity and femininity; and disrespect towards women and male peer relations that emphasise aggression.
The Tasmanian Government is committed to addressing these gendered drivers of violence. We are taking action to promote gender equality through the implementation of Safe Homes, Families, Communities, Tasmania's Action Plan for Family and Sexual Violence 2019-2022, and through the Tasmanian Women's Strategy 2018-2021, which provides a framework for government, the private sector and the wider Tasmanian community to take significant actions to achieve gender equality in Tasmania. The strategy focuses on four priority areas - financial security; safety; leadership and participation; and health and wellbeing. The final action plan under the strategy, the Safety for Women Action Plan, will be released in 2021 and will focus on actions to improve the safety of women and girls in a range of settings, including workplaces, public spaces and homes.
Safe Homes, Families, Communities will invest $26 million over three years for 40 actions to prevent and respond to family and sexual violence in Tasmania under three priority areas, including primary prevention and early intervention. Preventing violence from happening in the first place is the single most effective way to eliminate family and sexual violence. Primary prevention makes preventing violence everybody's responsibility and asserts that we all have a role to play in changing the culture, structures and attitudes that drive family and sexual violence.
Since 2015 the Tasmanian Government has been a member of Our Watch, the national primary prevention organisation established to drive national change in the culture, behaviours and power imbalance that leads to violence against women and their children. Under Safe Homes, Families, Communities, we have established a national first partnership with Our Watch to establish an Our Watch primary prevention officer in Tasmania. The Our Watch primary prevention officer will build primary prevention capacity, capability and expertise in Tasmania. They will work closely with government agencies and non-government services to implement key Our Watch projects in Tasmania, work with Our Watch ambassadors to promote primary prevention activities and gender equality in Tasmania, and provide organisations with technical advice and expertise on building primary prevention capacity in their organisations and communities.
Under Safe Homes, Families, Communities we are supporting two national primary prevention campaigns, ongoing delivery of the successful Stop It at the Start campaign, and a new campaign to address sexual violence. Since 2015 the Government has supported the national campaign, Stop It at the Start, which aims to help break the cycle of violence by encouraging adults to reflect on their attitudes and have conversations about respect with young people.
We continue to embed Respectful Relationships education in all Tasmanian schools. The program supports students and school communities to build healthy, respectful and equal relationships and addresses the attitudes and behaviours that lead to violence. The Tasmanian State Service is also committed to ensuring that gender equality and respect are at the centre of all Tasmanian State Service workplaces. Safe Homes, Families, Communities builds on this to ensure gender equality and respect is part of the workplace culture.
In addition, as part of the Tasmanian Government's $1 billion social and economic support package, $2.7 million was provided to address family violence during the COVID-19 emergency. This has included $100 000 to develop a primary prevention campaign to raise awareness of family violence, the available support services and to promote the message that COVID-19 does not cause, justify or excuse family violence.
By challenging the condoning of violence against women, promoting women's independence and decision making, challenging gender stereotypes and roles and strengthening positive equal and respectful relationships, we can work to create a Tasmania free from all forms of family and sexual violence.
Ms Forrest - Before the Leader sits down, Mr President, I want to thank her for that response. It was very comprehensive. I only sent through the question a bit over a week ago, I think, but it is a terribly important topic. You will not need to speak on my motion when I bring that on. That was very comprehensive, so thank you.