Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 March 2021) . . Page.. 725 ..
In the last few years the #MeToo movement has torn open the silences we continued to condone and enforce. It is to some extent unsurprising that the moment has finally come to expose the misogyny of some of our federal counterparts on the hill, thanks most recently to Brittany Higgins. It has become clear that a space where there is competition, highly demanding working conditions, nepotism and traditional patriarchs in traditional positions of power builds a working environment in which women are disrespected, mistreated and assaulted. That can and must change.
I am grateful that the culture and conditions of this Canberran parliament have been developed and worked on over time to build appropriate systems and accountability measures that have made our workplaces safe and respectful. I am strongly supportive of all the moves this week by the feminists in this chamber, regardless of their party affiliations, to take actions that will support people who are experiencing sexual harassment and assault in their workplaces or otherwise to report and seek care. I am also grateful to my colleagues who have shared their personal stories here with us.
It is our job to work together in this place to ensure that Canberra is somewhere where people who experience violence are supported to seek care and justice for these violations. This motion acknowledges the great work of Victim Support ACT, the forensic and medical assault care team at the Canberra Hospital and the grassroots advocacy and care provided by the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre. It calls on the government to continue to provide information about these services and to investigate whether the funding and support provided to these organisations is adequate and meets demand.
Victim Support ACT has seen a 304 per cent increase in the provision of hours needed for sexual assault counselling, from 486 hours in 2016-17 to 1,964 hours in 2020-21. It is vital that that any investigation includes whether current supports are adequate to meet the demands for specialist therapeutic support.
My amendment adds to the motion by calling on the government to consider whether the resourcing and development of specialist expertise within the ACT Policing sexual assault and child abuse team is adequate. It is vital that the system designed to help people seek care and justice for sexual assault can and does meet the needs for which it was designed.
It was disappointing to read in the Canberra Times over the last few days that the rates of criminal prosecution of sexual assault have gone down in the last five years, despite an increase in reports to victim services and police. These units need to be resourced and supported to ensure that people are given hope and respect when seeking advice and support from our systems. More broadly than what this motion can and is intended to do, it is clear that the systems that are intended to bring justice for those who have experienced sexual assault require radical transformation. I look forward to seeing, commenting on and supporting the outcomes of the newly established sexual assault prevention and response working group.
Since being elected in October, I have made a point of meeting with a wide range of stakeholders from the gendered violence sector, including crisis housing support, peak