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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 2 Hansard (8 March) . . Page.. 403..


MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra—Leader of the Opposition) (4.32): Mr Speaker, I will be brief and just touch on one point that the Deputy Chief Minister touched on and that is domestic violence against women, which I certainly find abhorrent.

I just want to speak about a couple of matters, one of which I think was sending a very good signal to people who perpetrate violence at the worst end of the scale, that is for various nasty and serious rapes, and also another matter that I was a bit concerned about in relation to what had occurred. Both were court matters. The first one was a matter last year where a serial rapist who terrified Canberra received what I regarded as a particularly appropriate sentence. I was concerned to see that a young woman was raped. Her matter was finalised by the court. She was 16 and she was raped by a couple of young fellows of, I think, 18 or 19, who picked her up after she worked at a place in Tuggeranong and, after molesting her, dumped her at a kerbside in Kambah, dishevelled and crying her eyes out. I was disturbed to see one of those matters dealt with when the young man—he was not a young person; he was an adult—received only periodic detention.

I do think courts need to be very aware of the community abhorrence of violence generally against women, but particularly rape. A lot of women used never to report rape. I think more and more are getting the strength and the support now to report this most heinous of crimes. But it is still often a very difficult offence to prove and there is still a reluctance by many women to come forward because of the trauma of reliving the experience. Certainly, when matters are brought to justice it is crucially important that our courts reflect the abhorrence that the community feels about rape and impose proper penalties accordingly.

Whilst I have seen some heartening steps, both here and elsewhere, in recent times, our judicial system needs to be forever vigilant in terms of extracting and imposing appropriate penalties for this most serious offence, penalties that will serve as a deterrent to the animals—that is probably being nasty to animals; to the people—who perpetrate these dreadful offences. It is appropriate that we look at these matters too when we commemorate the International Year of Women. I congratulate other speakers in this debate, but I do want to make that point.

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (4.35): I thank Mr Gentleman for bringing this issue to the Assembly. It is, of course, very relevant, today being International Women's Day. I would also like to note the contributions made by earlier speakers. I know that the minister, as well as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Dr Foskey, have gone to an International Women's Day awards event which is happening at this moment; so I think that this is a good time to have the discussion.

Before I give my formal speech, I want to make note of the comments that Ms Gallagher and others made in relation to how fortunate we are in the ACT in comparison with others overseas. Of course, that does not mean that there are not those within the ACT whose lives could not be improved. There are still women in the ACT whose lives could be improved. I speak from my experience last year in travelling to Nigeria and seeing at first hand the issues that women in other countries face. Being an Australian delegate for commonwealth women parliamentarians, I expect that I will hear those stories in detail again when I attend the conference in New Delhi in September.


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