Political rivals lay out their home violence fight

29th October 2020 5:00 AM
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The community came together in grief after the brutal murders of Hannah Clarke and her three children in Brisbane earlier this year.

There was a common understanding the senseless deaths could have been avoided.

Whether it was from government, opposition or those working directly with victims, one thing was clear.

Something had to be done.

Both sides of government are committed to tackling domestic violence in the lead up to the state election, but an independent Sunshine Coast MP says urgent funding for emergency housing should be a top priority.


EXCLUSIVE: Rare insight into Coast's secret women's shelter

HerStory: Read each woman's harrowing story here



The Sunshine Coast Daily has spoken with victims, police, support workers and politicians as part of the HerStory campaign to examine what's available in the region to help decrease domestic and family violence.

According to the Federal Government's 2016 Personal Safety Survey, one in four women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner, and one in five women has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.

Queensland police statistics indicate there were 1364 breaches of domestic violence order offences in the Sunshine Coast Police District from October last year to July this year.

Statewide, the breaches have increased by 124 per cent since 2014/15.

Sunshine Coast Police Prosecutions officer-in-charge Dave Bradley says the staggering statistics represent a failure.

But experts say it's not too late to make a lasting change.

Sunny Kids general manager Kathleen Hope. Photo: Patrick Woods
Sunny Kids general manager Kathleen Hope. Photo: Patrick Woods

Sunny Kids general manager Kathleen Hope says more collaboration between departments is needed, as well as an in-depth analysis of gaps within the sector.

Ms Hope said it would take a "brave" government to look at what the sector was doing wrong and what was missing.



The LNP has outlined a comprehensive plan to combat domestic and family violence in Queensland

Shadow police minister and Ninderry MP Dan Purdie said addressing domestic violence should be above politics.

But he criticised the State Government for its "inaction" since Hannah Clarke and her children's deaths.

"If Labor was serious about domestic violence, then they would have made changes to improve safety for survivors and their families," Mr Purdie said.

Noosa MP Sandy Bolton said she fully supported any requests from frontline organisations, including legislative change and creating safer spaces for relationships.

She said there was "much we can and must do", but more emergency housing should be a top priority, as well as longer term options for people remaining in violent homes due to an inability to afford somewhere else to live.

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She agreed with Senior Sergeant Bradley's call for increased funding for perpetrator programs and more investment in healthy relationship education in schooling systems, such as Healthy Harold.

"Domestic and family violence is one of our greatest concerns and statistics sadly have risen during this pandemic," Ms Bolton said.

"Over the last three years as an MP I have worked with our frontline organisations including police and those impacted by domestic violence, taking forward their voices and experiences for what is required.

"This includes legislative changes they see essential as decreasing this violence, and creating safer spaces for relationships.

"Any requests from them I fully support."

Noosa Independent MP Sandy Bolton. Photo: Patrick Woods
Noosa Independent MP Sandy Bolton. Photo: Patrick Woods

In July, the LNP announced a raft of new measures to boost Queensland's domestic violence response. The party's solution, if elected on October 31, is to introduce the following measures:

  • Better laws and stronger penalties for strangulation by "fixing" the definition of strangulation and doubling the maximum penalty from seven years to 14. This would reclassify the offence as a serious violent offence and align the penalties with grievous bodily harm.
  • Implement laws to address coercive control and a specific domestic violence summary offence. This would empower police to issue domestic violence orders on the spot, providing immediate response to families and taking pressure off police and courts.
  • Commit $500,000 to roll out 200 personal safety devices to people vulnerable to domestic violence. This would include greater integration with GPS trackers and protect vulnerable survivors and their families.
  • Commit $2.4 million to support survivors and their families. The LNP has pledged to provide $1 million in extra funding to Women's Legal Service and $1 million to other frontline legal and support providers. It would also establish one-off emergency assistance grants of up to $2000 to help families flee violent homes.

Mr Purdie said the sector would also benefit from a "one stop shop" service for vulnerable families, with multiple agencies working together to prevent people slipping through the cracks.

"The problem is no one really knows what's available. Getting out of the environment you're in and getting into that system is nearly impossible … people don't know where to do," he said.

Dan Purdie MP.
Dan Purdie MP.

The Labor Government says ending domestic and family violence is something it will never back away from.

Child Safety and Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Minister Di Farmer said a re-elected Palaszczuk government could not and would not tolerate more tragedies in Queensland.

"Although coercive control is mentioned in Queensland's current domestic and family violence legislation, it clearly isn't enough," Ms Farmer said.

"Few countries have legislated against coercive control but where they have, conviction rates are low."

Ms Farmer said Labor would work with legal experts, survivors, domestic violence service providers and the Domestic Violence Prevention Council to ensure new laws addressed coercive control on several fronts.

"A re-elected Palaszczuk Government will provide the specialist, evidence-based tools to help first responders and domestic violence case workers recognise the subtle signs of coercive control and know when and how to step in," she said.

Minister for Child Safety and Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Di Farmer. Picture: Liam Kidston
Minister for Child Safety and Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Di Farmer. Picture: Liam Kidston

Mr Purdie agreed coercive control was complex and needed to be addressed, but he questioned why the Labor Government had not mentioned it previously in its two terms.

"Why are they, on the eve of an election, all of a sudden announcing all of this great stuff they've done nothing about?" he said.

Mr Purdie criticised the State Government for not yet delivering two specialist domestic violence police officers which were announced for the region in 2018, but Ms Farmer said those positions had been advertised and should be deployed by the end of the year.

Since 2015, Ms Farmer said Labor had invested more than $500 million to end domestic and family violence.

"We also delivered more than $7.5 million in extra state funding during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist community-based organisations meet additional demand for their services from under pressure Queensland families," she said.

Ms Farmer hit back at Mr Purdie's claims Labor had not done enough to address domestic and family violence, saying at the last election the LNP's costings revealed plans to cut $4.5 million in funding from existing community services.

"In the middle of a pandemic, Deb Frecklington and the LNP's history of cuts to domestic and family violence services will put the safety of Queensland women and children at unacceptable risk," she said.



Ms Hope told the Daily regardless of who was in power, it was vital the sector had more support and more investment in emergency housing like the Sunny Kids refuge on the Sunshine Coast.

"When you consider how wide the gap is between the services that we provide on the ground and the system that has the authority to intervene … the gap is so wide, it's so vast that I just can't actually imagine that ever being bridged in an effective way the way we're doing things now."