Published: 25 March 2021

Legislative Council Wednesday 24 March, 2021

Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, my contribution on this bill will be brief.

When we hear about the abhorrent things that continue to go on in our state - some historic, some more recent - particularly in institutions that we would like to think are safe places for our children such as our schools and our hospitals, places like that, all of us are forced to stop and take account of what we are hearing.

The sad thing is this has been going on and on. We have had a royal commission into aspects of these sort of terrible events. We are now seeing through events in Canberra and even around other parliaments and other workplaces examples of a complete lack of understanding of what respect looks like, of what appropriate behaviour looks like, of what equality looks like.

We have a hell of a long way to go. Some time ago I felt we were actually making some progress but in the last two or three years, and particularly in the last two three weeks, I have realised how far we are from living in what I thought was a civil society.

Where children are abused, where women are raped, where all manner of abuse occurs much lower down the scale that leads ultimately to where we see people turning a blind eye, not standing up, not calling it out, not holding people to account, and this is where we get. This is exactly where we get.

I hope that all of us, when next we see anything that is not right, whether it is a slur, whether it is an inappropriate comment, anything at all disrespectful, particularly to women and or children, that we stand up and do not walk past.

That is not easy in a lot of circumstances, but I challenge us all to do that because this commission of inquiry is absolutely essential. I commend the Government for bringing it on. They had no choice in my view. The more that came out, the more they had no choice.

We all have to do our part in this. We have to educate our children. If anyone has sons or grandsons, you have a big job ahead of you to make sure they are raised to understand what respect looks like - to understand what consent is and to empower our girls.

I watched a really good YouTube speech clip the other day from the school captain of the Brisbane Boys' College. If you have not watched it, I encourage you to do so. I posted it on Facebook. You may find it easier to access there.

He stood up in front of a private boys' school as school captain, and he said he was making the hardest speech of his life. He revealed the abuse of his mother at eight years of age, the sexual abuse of his mother, and he talked about the culture in their school. We do not have to go too far to read about culture in private boys' schools, do we? How disgraceful that has been.

I hope we have more young men like him who are willing to stand up and call it out. Not just in a forum like that but every time they see it because until we do and the commission of inquiry on its own will not change much.

We are putting an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff here. We need fences at the top that actually stop people going down the path with the outcomes we have seen here.

This bill amends a number of acts to provide an appropriate framework I would say for this commission of inquiry to be conducted.

I made a point in the briefing that the bill provides the commission with the power to inspect documents where legal privilege is claimed, such as legal professional privilege or public interest immunity. It was for the commission of inquiry itself to determine whether the claim is properly made. I would have thought that would be in the original bill. I know it is an old bill and has not been used very often. I hope this will help it stand the test of time should there be further commissions of inquiry in the future.

The other amendments provide an appropriate mechanism to protect people who may be called to give evidence - adults who were children, or even children still, who will be drawn into this inquiry. I hope the outcome of the inquiry is that we see real change. I hope that even the conducting of the inquiry will see the start of a greater focus on how we prevent this happening, that we never need to do it again. It is just a travesty. The member for Windermere raised the matter of the investment required to resource police and to undertake additional work in this area - it is incumbent on the Government to resource this fully. There is no price I could put on any child's life who has been harmed or damaged by an institution of this state. I do not care how much it costs for them to get justice for these people. Surely, they deserve no less.

I listened to some of the Premier's comments at the time of the announcement. I think he made it fairly clear - the Leader may like to confirm this - that there will be no issue with resourcing of this commission and the work necessary to see it complete its work.

Mrs Hiscutt - That is correct.

Ms FORREST - The last thing we need is a commission that is somehow stymied from doing its work effectively because of a resourcing issue. I acknowledge the Premier has made that commitment. It is going to be a really tough time for a lot of people. It is going to raise a lot of matters for those who have been abused in other circumstances. We need to be very alert to that in our communities. We need to keep our ears open and our eyes up if we see people who are hurting, and if people come to us, we know how to help them.

Most of all we need to call out bad behaviour when it happens. Be brave, be strong because our children and grandchildren depend on this.

Mr President, I note that tonight a number of our members are coming to hear Bri Lee speak; she wrote Eggshell Skull, and she is an amazing woman who has had experience herself. She will be speaking to the members who can attend tonight. It will be a very valuable and timely experience. I contacted her - I am not sure how many weeks or months ago we organised this; it was when the borders were still shut - in the hope we would get her here.

She is here. I know she spoke to the Women's Legal Service people, which I helped to facilitate. Over 50 people were there last night, including a couple of judges. Bri told me this morning that it was a really fantastic session. Let us listen to people like Bri Lee, who has her own personal experience within the law herself. If you have not read her book Eggshell Skull, please read it, it is highly informative. She is putting out a new book in June about the inequity in our education system.

There are people like Bri, there are people like Jess Hill, who speaks about the impact of coercive control and family violence and also the effects on children. Let us inform ourselves. The commission of inquiry will do its work. I commend the Government for setting it up. I am pleased this will happen, but there is so much more outside this that needs to be done. We all, as leaders in our communities, have a very clear responsibility.


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