We say no to domestic violence

31 March 2022

"We won't go quietly. We won't be silent. We say no to domestic violence." That was the call from the crowd from across the Charlestown electorate, Newcastle and the Hunter, which gathered the night before last to protest for a safer place for women. Their cry was simple: "No more violence. No more hate." We need women and children to feel safe and, more importantly, to be safe in our streets, our public spaces, our workplaces and in their own homes. On Friday last, 21‑year‑old Mackenzie Anderson was killed in Mayfield, Newcastle, outside her home. The man who has been charged with her horrific stabbing murder was not a stranger to her. He was her ex‑partner, against whom she had taken out an apprehended domestic violence order. She leaves behind a young son and a community that is mourning and angry. The night before last, at a march organised by What Were You Wearing?, her community demanded change.

Today we heard news of yet another woman, a 38‑year‑old in Bondi, who has died what appears to be a horrific death. A man is being questioned in relation to her death. In the past five years, although reported rates of domestic‑related assault have been stable, reports of sexual assault and other offences, such as those apparently involved in the murder of Mackenzie Anderson, have been rising in the Charlestown electorate. According to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures, in the Lake Macquarie local government area the rate of sexual assault is up 7.6 per cent per annum. Breaches of apprehended violence orders are up more than 7 per cent per annum. In the Newcastle local government area, the trends in domestic violence and sexual assault are stable, but there is also an increase in breaches of apprehended violence orders and of people breaking bail conditions.

Domestic violence service providers that I have spoken to have highlighted again and again that offenders are not complying with apprehended domestic violence orders. It is devastating that our community has lost a 21‑year‑old woman, a young mother, because our system is not up to the job of keeping her safe. It is not only the communities represented in this place that are questioning what more we can do to keep women safe. In Queensland, Hannah Clarke and her three children were killed in the most horrific circumstances in 2020, after repeatedly seeking assistance to keep them safe. She was scared and, as we now know, she had every reason to be. Jack and Jennifer Edwards, shot and killed by their father in Sydney in 2018, had suffered a decade of domestic abuse alongside their mother. People helping domestic abuse survivors day in and day out are telling us that the current systems are failing women and children at the most pivotal moment, that is, when women decide to leave. We need to better engage with and listen to these services.

In coming together and marching last night, the people of Charlestown, together with the community of Newcastle, called for action. We need a whole‑of‑community approach. This is an issue that affects every culture, every age group, every socio‑economic status and every gender. We do not want to rely on inquest findings, made after yet another young woman or her children have been killed, to point us in the direction of action. We know that the starting point for change is equality. We need women to receive respect, and we need equal representation in this place and in every level of Parliament. We need respect shown to women in industry in the provision of equal pay and equal access to promotions right to the top. We need recognition of women‑led industries and an examination of their rates of pay.

In the wake of COVID‑19, we should never again underestimate the importance of industries with a higher percentage of women workers, such as our healthcare staff, our nurses, our childcare workers and our teachers. We need cultural change. We need a generation of young men engaged in thinking critically about their use of violence as a whole, as well as violence against women. The appetite for change is there; we see it in the numbers of people, both men and women, campaigning for change and marching for justice. Primary prevention is key to creating real change in keeping women and children safe, and every one of us in this Parliament needs to be leading that change for a better future.