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Family Violence

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Tags: Family Violence

Matter of Public Importance - Family Violence


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, yesterday in Franklin Square women and men came from all over Tasmania to rally for International Women's Day. We heard from Her Excellency, the Governor, we heard from Jess Munday from Unions Tasmania, but we also heard from a woman called Nat who told her story of domestic and family violence. Hers was a story of a person who had been in a coercive, controlling relationship, who dictated what she should wear, who wanted to know where she was every moment of the day, who resented her relationships with family and friends, and who did not like it when she expressed a desire to go out to work. Of course, to work begins your journey to financial independence, which is a huge challenge for many women in abusive relationships. It reinforced with everyone who stood in utter silence listening to Nat yesterday that domestic and family violence comes in many forms.

The form of violence that Hannah Clarke and her beautiful children experienced before her ex husband murdered them was a form of coercive, controlling family violence where this murderer, who was prepared to kill a woman he professed to love and his three children, sought to control what she wore. She was not allowed to wear shorts at the gym that they co-owned, controlled who she was able to see, would sulk for days on end if he felt that his power was being challenged in any way.

On 4 December last year, Hannah Clarke finally made a run for it. She went to her mum and dad's place, Suzanne and Lloyd Clarke, in Camp Hill, not far from where I grew up in Brisbane. She thought they were safe there, maybe. A domestic violence order was taken out on the murderer. Within quick succession, on three separate occasions that sequentially followed each other, he breached that order. When it became clear he was losing any control over the situation he kidnapped their daughter and took her interstate. It was really at that point, from the reports that I have heard, that Hannah Clarke understood just how dangerous that man was.

There is a move on now to have laws at a national level, reforms so that those other forms of coercive violence, control of domestic violence, are captured within the legislation. Within our Family Violence Act 2004, we here in Tasmania have taken it close to that level of having a recognition that the violence women and children experience comes in many forms, not all of it physical.

It is my understanding that the Premier, as yet, has not made time to sit down with the Family Violence Counselling and Support Service. If I am incorrect in that statement, I am happy to stand corrected. That would be an important meeting for you to have, as the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, to sit down with the government agency that deals at the front line with people, women and children, who have been traumatised and their lives smashed up and they are trying to put them back together. The Family Violence Counselling and Support Service provides an essential service and it is disappointing that nearly two months into your premiership, you have not sat down with them.

I will make one more observation before I sit down. Violence comes in many forms. I heard what the Premier said before about how important it is that we condemn this violence. I urge the Premier to recognise that responsibility also applies to other acts of violence within our community.

It may have escaped your attention, Premier, that one of the peaceful protesters, at least, who was in that car in the Tarkine - that was around about 10 days ago - was Dr Lisa Searle, a well qualified GP, who is also defending the Tarkine. Not a word out of you Premier, or any one of your ministers, condemning that violence. If we are going to have a society that challenges and condemns violence against women and children, you cannot have compartments of people you are prepared to speak up for. When those protesters were so violently attacked on public land in the Tarkine that they were in fear of their lives, as the Premier it was your responsibility to condemn that violence. But no, we did not hear a word from you. That is as good as dog whistling to those thugs, who are prepared to hurt peaceful protesters in our forests. That silence tacitly condoned that violence towards peaceful protesters on public land and you should be ashamed.

This is an issue on which the public, the people of Tasmania, want there to be as little politics as possible. I acknowledge your work, Madam Deputy Speaker, as the former minister for women who worked really hard to get tripartisanship on the issue of family violence prevention.

We need to have a very clear commitment from this new Premier, not only in words, not just in saying the right things in this place, but to sitting down with the specialists in the Family Violence Counselling and Support Service, listening to women and children who have escaped and survived, and condemning violence wherever it happens in our community.