08 May 2024

Ms JODIE HARRISON (Charlestown—Minister for Women, Minister for Seniors, and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault) (17:09): I welcome the opportunity to address this issue directly and on the record. The Government wants these frontline domestic violence worker positions filled as quickly as possible, but we need to do it right. We need to make sure that these workers are fully resourced, properly located, correctly trained and supported. We need to make sure that the process is transparent, that procurement requirements are met and that these workers, once in place, are able to stay in place.

The Department of Communities and Justice has undertaken rigorous geographic and demographic analysis to determine where these workers should go and what experience, training and support they will need to be able to properly support domestic and family violence victim‑survivors when they most need it. It has done this alongside the Federal Government. This is a complex process because the needs of victim‑survivors are complex. Many victim‑survivors of domestic violence exist at the intersection of a range of different social and economic factors, and that is what the department's analysis has been about. That intersectionality compounds the complexity of needs, and the diversity of victim‑survivors needs to be matched with a diversity of support workers. The department made a commitment to the sector to be open, transparent and consultative, and that is exactly what it has been.

The department has engaged with the Federal Government on its methodology, and with a range of organisations throughout this process, including Domestic Violence NSW, No to Violence, ACON, People with Disability Australia, Yfoundations, Settlement Services International and, of course, the Aboriginal Women's Advisory Network, because it is of paramount importance that the work in First Nations communities is led by First Nations people. The evidence is clear: The outcomes for Aboriginal victim‑survivors are better when domestic, family and sexual violence support services are delivered by Aboriginal organisations. The Productivity Commission has been very clear on that. We will work with First Nations communities to ensure that positions are filled in areas where there is the most need. As I said earlier today, the last thing we want to do is compound centuries of dispossession and colonisation. This process takes time, and we want to do it right.

I am not interested in denying the urgency of this issue: It is urgent. But what I am absolutely committed to doing is making sure that we get this right. There is no room to rush the rollout of these workers. Racing through a tender and recruitment process would be counterproductive for the domestic violence support sector as a whole, for the workers and, most importantly, for the victim‑survivors they support. No‑one wants to see these workers in place more quickly than I do, but it has to be done in a responsible, sustainable way. We have to make sure that the right workers are deployed to the right places. We have to make sure that the sector is supported, so that workers can provide the support services that are so desperately needed. The people who do this work are tireless advocates for victim‑survivors in every sense of the word. But as wonderful and committed as they are, this work takes its toll. It would be doing the workers and the organisations they work for a disservice to do anything less than be fully transparent and consultative.

This morning I told the House about widespread frustration in the community over the stubbornly high rates of domestic, family and sexual violence. I understand this frustration because I share it. In the face of this wave of frustration, grief and rage we are all experiencing about the prevalence of domestic and family violence, the temptation to rush through solutions is incredibly strong. But we cannot afford to give in to that temptation. The Government has not been standing still. The department has not been standing still. I have not been standing still. We are making progress and we are doing it right. We expect contracts to be in place by June and then we will be recruiting. We can then get the workers on the ground, where they need to be—workers who are supported in their roles and who are delivering their services to the communities who need them most. Doing a half‑hearted or rushed job just to reach a number sooner would be doing it wrong, and I will not let that happen on my watch.