Keep up momentum for action on domestic violence

Domestic violence must stop. We all know it. Lismore MP Janelle Saffin makes an impassioned plea to everyone to keep up the momentum for action on domestic violence.

By Janelle Saffin MP, Member for Lismore

I HAVE fought for action on domestic violence for more than 40 years.

Recent horrific cases of domestic violence murders have led to a public outcry and media campaigns for action. I welcome the Minns Government announcement of a $230 million emergency package for DV prevention and support.

BUT we must keep up this momentum and not go quiet on this issue.  I want to share with you this excerpt of what I said in the last session of Parliament. (Edited for length)


Ms JANELLE SAFFIN (Lismore) (20:16): Domestic violence must stop. We all know it. We all say it. Molly should not have died, and her death cannot be in vain. There is a willingness and mobilisation on behalf of the whole community that I have not seen in the more than 40 years I have been involved in advocacy around domestic violence. I thought when I came back to this place that I could do some other things—but I cannot. I absolutely have to re-engage with everyone on trying to stop domestic violence.

Domestic violence is more than the physical act of violence; it is a spectrum of behaviour. In sociological terms, the spectrum extends from circumlocution—the derogatory comments, the bad words, the put‑downs—to extermination, which is murder. Women experience domestic violence right across that whole spectrum. It is not just being a little bit scared; it is living with terror. That absolute terror dominates those women’s lives at the hands of someone who is supposed to be a loving partner—someone they love. It is “What do I wear? What do I think? What do I do? Who do I talk to? Who do I text, because my phone will be monitored?”. Family and friends are moved away, but the perpetrator makes it look like the woman is doing that. Every act is under subjugation.

For women in that situation, it is like living with a sometimes benevolent dictator. Everything they do is circumscribed. It is hard to imagine raising children in that environment. These things have happened for a long time. I set up the Far North Coast Domestic Violence Liaison Committee. I worked in a refuge for years. Earlier, I have been at the forefront of changes, including changes to the laws. There was a Crimes Act, but women were not seen as worthy of protection under that law.

I was looking at the headlines and I thought, I hope they do not disappear quickly like they often do on this issue. I will read some of those headlines: “We’re sick of living in terror”, “This has to stop”, “How many more women have to die?”, “It was murder waiting to happen”, ,,”Time to tackle this crisis in our community”, “‘You get ostracised in a small town if you speak out'”—if you are the domestic violence victim. We know that it can happen anywhere, but it happens to a greater degree in some of those smaller country towns. “Why country women are sitting ducks”, “Misogyny driving violence” “It’s time for men to get uncomfortable”, and “Bush in plea for more DV support”.

The headlines go on and on. (..) I note that in the package the Government has introduced we are looking at perpetrator behaviour. We have to do that. I wish I had 50 minutes, not 5 minutes, to talk about this.

Dr Hugh McDermott: Five hours.

Ms JANELLE SAFFIN: Yes, five hours. We need to open up. On International Women’s Day I said, “We’re so sedate. It’s so polite. We’re having these wonderful lunches. Aren’t we lovely?” I said, “We need to be on the street screaming.” That is what I am doing here.

link to full speech: