Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 3266..
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (6.02): Yesterday I was privileged to meet with a group of Catholic religious people who are part of an organisation called Australian Religious Congregations against Trafficking. I was privileged to have in my office three nuns representing various religious orders who have come together as part of a wider group to lobby governments across the country to be more responsive to the issues of women who are trafficked in general but especially women who are trafficked for sexual purposes. We found that we had a meeting of the minds and that the views that they were wanting to reinforce with legislators both here and in the federal parliament were to do with the dissatisfaction with the current visa arrangements which, as members would know, have been improved recently, in about 2004, but are still not good enough.
The group was very supportive of the attitude taken by Liberal women and congratulated the Liberal women on successfully having passed at the last federal Liberal council a unanimous motion in support of adopting a model of protecting women who are trafficked into Australia and who are found in brothels and various other places, which is a much higher standard than is currently the case. They agreed with the Liberal women that we should be looking at a model which is more like the Italian model that provides unquestioning support. Visas are made available to people to allow them to re-establish their lives. That is not conditional in any way upon whether they provide evidence in criminal justice prosecutions.
We still have a problem in Australia where women found in brothels do not have the courage or the support to provide evidence. Sometimes they are prepared to provide evidence, but there is not enough evidence. The women who fall into those categories are sent home to a life where they might be re-trafficked again. Australians are contributing to the re-victimisation of women who have already been substantially victimised and whose lives have been put in great jeopardy.
I encourage members of the Australian Religious Congregations against Trafficking in their task. I note the statements that were made by the Minister for Women recently. I am glad to see a change of heart in the ACT. When I first raised these issues, perhaps back in 2003, there was a fair amount of denial by the Chief Minister and others that it was not possible that these things were happening in the ACT.
It is encouraging to see a change of heart. It is a difficult subject and is often a subject that nice, middle-aged women do not like to talk about. It is highly commendable that a group of Catholic nuns would take up this process. As a class of people, it is not the thing that you would expect nuns to talk about. It is not so much that they would be interested, but the conventional view that people have of nuns is that they are too refined and genteel to talk of these matters.
These are serious matters about the rights of human beings. We should give our support to all of those people who act in the best interests of women who have been severely victimised.