The Victorian Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Andrews, has promised to establish a Royal Commission into Family Violence, if the ALP is returned to government at this year’s election.
Speaking at the ALP’s State Conference today, Andrews said the Royal Commission would be required to report by the end of 2015 and nothing would be off limits.
“The Family Violence Royal Commission will examine our system from the ground up. It will investigate criminal law, corrections and the courts. It will look at support services, the health system, alcohol and drug treatment. It will look at refuges, housing and education. And, of course, it will look at the resources and tools available to our hard-working police officers.”
Andrews said “a Victorian Labor Government will implement its recommendations”.
Andrews has previously promised that, if elected, he would appoint Danielle Green, the member for Yan Yean, as “a dedicated, stand-alone Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence”. The ministry will be part of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
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Transcript of speech to the Victorian ALP State Conference by the Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Andrews.
I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.
I make that acknowledgement, not because I have to, but because I choose to – because it’s the right thing to do.
I acknowledge Party President Cath Bowtell who is presiding over the last State Conference of her term.
There’s not a single person in this room who doesn’t recognise Cath’s determination, her leadership and her service to our party, and we thank her.
I also acknowledge our State Secretary, Noah Carroll.
We recognise his hard work – putting together the most innovative and active campaigning unit in this country, bar none.
When my fellow candidates and I hit the streets with Labor’s field team – decked out in red, real people with real stories – we remember what it was that drew us to this movement.
I want to give a special mention to Labor’s Deputy Leader, James Merlino.
There’s no stronger voice for our children’s education and there’s no stronger voice for the people of Monbulk.
I welcome the members of my Shadow Cabinet and Caucus.
I couldn’t ask for a more disciplined team, so devoted to the people of this state.
I welcome Labor’s members in the Federal Parliament, speaking up for millions of ordinary Australians.
And, of course, I welcome life members, delegates, ladies, and gentleman.
Friends, our state is broken, and this is the movement that will put it back together again.
We’ve come a long way in the last three and a half years.
Reaffirming our priorities.
Releasing our plans.
Rebuilding our platform, which I commend to you today.
And along the way, we recognised something.
A decent, stable and responsible Government is so important to every single family in this state.
We see that in the faces of kids just trying to get a job, just trying to learn.
We hear it in the stories of loved ones – some of them waiting for an ambulance, some waiting in emergency, some waiting for surgery – all of them, waiting longer than ever.
We felt it, when our economy shuddered to a halt – when Ford and Holden and Toyota told us they were leaving.
We see it on our streets and stations every single day – the traffic and train delays that keep us from our families.
We read it on the windows and doors of our ambulances – the pleas of our hardworking paramedics, some of whom it is my pleasure to welcome here today.
It’s everywhere – the grounds of every school, the hallways of every hospital.
And it tells us one thing.
Victoria can do so much better than this.
Victorians deserve so much better than this.
Because education is more than a key issue.
It’s the key to a better life.
Health care is more than a Government’s duty.
It’s the test of a Government’s decency.
Employment is more than numbers on a page.
It’s dignity. It’s purpose.
It’s our way of life.
Friends – we’ve heard a lot about those things.
There’s something else I want to talk to you about today.
Something that’s so wrong, it obscures everything else that is right.
And that’s family violence.
I should let you know that what I’m about to say may be distressing for some.
Family violence is a national emergency.
Family violence ruins lives.
Family violence kills.
And all of you in this room know a victim and you know them well.
But you might not know who.
I am heartened by the many campaigns that have brought awareness to it.
But these campaigns have told us something else as well:
Awareness means little, if the system is broken.
And our system is.
Thousands of dedicated workers and volunteers, dozens of important services, they work hard to make things better.
But the system’s still broken.
It doesn’t protect the vulnerable.
It doesn’t punish the guilty.
It doesn’t save enough lives.
We won’t fix it until we admit it.
I’ll be criticised for saying that.
And I don’t care.
We expect victims to make a deeply personal and terrifying leap.
To come forward and seek protection.
But we’re not doing our bit.
We’re not there to catch them when they make that leap.
Instead, those seeking help fall into endless waiting lists.
A support network that’s underfunded.
A police force that’s under pressure.
And intervention orders that often mean absolutely nothing.
It’s a betrayal.
That’s the reason why we always witness these tragedies hours too late – on the evening news.
Played before us and an audience of millions.
News stories filled with old photographs and the thoughtful words of loved ones.
The short films of our greatest failure.
So many families have met tragedy. We must remember them.
And we must remember those in newer relationships, who might be slowly losing their freedom.
Slowly losing themselves.
Too many are later described as the victim of an unexpected, isolated incident.
Well, there’s nothing unexpected or isolated about it.
It’s a vicious pattern.
Think about some of these words, from survivors:
“We weren’t allowed to cry inside the house.”
“I couldn’t leave – he’d taken my keys.”
“Gradually, he made me believe that I had no friends.”
“He thought it was what husbands were allowed to do.”
These words tell us one thing:
Family violence can come in any form.
It can creep into any home.
It can happen to anyone.
I’ll never forget how I felt, on that routine weekday evening, when I heard what had happened on a suburban cricket ground to an ordinary boy who loved his mum and loved his dad.
When I got home that night, I wanted to wake up my kids and hold them close.
Nothing is more honest than the loyalty of a child.
And nothing hurts more than its betrayal.
15 children known to DHS – 15 vulnerable children – died this year.
And family violence was a factor in twelve of those tragedies.
When family violence is committed against women and children, it diminishes us all.
Because it’s our problem.
And it’s a crime.
It’s 40 per cent of police work.
It’s the leading contributor to death and disability in Australian women under 45.
One woman is murdered by her current or former partner, every week.
One in four children witness violence against a parent – and that’s a type of violence in its own right.
We have to admit that if women and their children were being systematically tormented by total strangers, we would be quick to act.
We would do more.
Tonight, women and their children will huddle in sparse hotel rooms and refuges, briefly away from the violence but never further away from a loving and caring home.
Tonight, sons and daughters will lock themselves in their rooms, their perception of the most formative adult relationship in their young lives, forever scarred, forever changed.
Tonight, Victoria Police will respond to around a hundred incidents of violence and abuse, doing the best they can without the resources they need.
Next week, intervention orders will be made.
Intervention orders will be breached.
Men will be referred to behaviour change programs.
In reality, they’ll be referred to waiting lists.
Lists that are longer than is safe, longer than is acceptable.
Tomorrow, many victims will be too scared to call out for help.
Others will be too ashamed.
Some will take the leap.
But all will be, in one way or another, let down by a system that cannot cope, cannot protect.
For some, there may be no tomorrow.
And what are the politicians doing?
Yes, we pose for photographs and we wear a ribbon.
But we’re not asking ourselves the hard questions.
Some people think the chief duty of a Government is maintaining law and order.
Well, the biggest law and order issue in our state is unfolding inside our homes.
When we see it on the TV, we don’t know what to say.
The truth is, we don’t know what do to, either.
We don’t have all the answers.
I cannot promise that every woman and child will be safe.
I cannot promise that every family will be free of violence.
But I am prepared to try. It’s time to change it all.
That’s why, today, I announce, that a Victorian Labor Government will establish Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence.
And nothing will be off limits.
The Family Violence Royal Commission will examine our system from the ground up.
It will investigate criminal law, corrections and the courts.
It will look at support services, the health system, alcohol and drug treatment.
It will look at refuges, housing and education.
And, of course, it will look at the resources and tools available to our hard-working police officers.
A panel of survivors and support providers will advise and assist the Commission.
It will begin its work early next year, reporting to Parliament – and to all Victorians – by the end of 2015.
And a Victorian Labor Government will implement its recommendations.
The Commission will take time, but there are some things that can’t wait.
That’s why I intend to make more announcements on this issue.
That’s why, back in December, I appointed a dedicated, stand-alone Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence – our colleague and friend, Danielle Green.
That’s why, in Government, this Ministry will be part of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, at the heart of our Government, at the centre of our agenda.
That’s why I toured the state, as part of our Labor Cares program, meeting with those affected by family violence and the people who support them.
They must be acknowledged – the many organisations and individuals who work so hard.
People like Fiona McCormack and Domestic Violence Victoria and the dedicated men and women of Victoria Police. They save lives.
This Royal Commission will honour their work.
This Royal Commission will give us the answers we need.
Just a few weeks ago, I visited my old school.
I told the students the most important thing I’ve ever learnt: if you have the opportunity, then you have the obligation.
We can do more and we must.
Because, once every so often, a genuine crisis erupts, in the most powerful way imaginable.
When that happens, our obligation to do something becomes overwhelming.
That time has come.
I will never forget what happened a few months ago to an eleven year old boy on that cricket ground.
And I’ll never forget meeting with his remarkable mum, Rosie, and hearing her story.
She is the face of courage in this country.
When we hear the anguish in one family, we must listen long enough to hear the deafening whisper of thousands more.
We hear it.
And we are going to do something about it.
Because the time has come, to put people first.