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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2021) . . Page.. 1913 ..

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (10.29): When I was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2016, I voiced my concerns and asked many questions of the ACT government about domestic violence in our city. I spoke about the need to achieve better outcomes in prevention and early intervention. I also warned the government that front-line services were experiencing an increase in demand that would become too much to bear unless more investment was made to meet community needs. Earlier last month I learned that mothers and children in Canberra have been sleeping in their cars to escape domestic violence. This materialises my longstanding fears.

During my time in office I have heard several ACT ministers repeatedly state that the success of a city is measured by how we treat our most vulnerable. Let me be clear: it is not okay for mothers and children who have fled violent homes to be sleeping in cars because there is no emergency housing left. It is not okay to have to wait for an average of 280 days to find any kind of housing, let alone priority housing. It is not okay for our community legal centres to have to let victims down because we have now reached a foreseen crisis. It is not okay for any of these things to be happening in this city under normal conditions, much less during a pandemic. This is no way to treat our most vulnerable. I am no stranger to the struggles and heartaches caused by domestic violence.

From my own personal experiences, I have learnt the importance of family safety and the right we each have to feel safe in our personal relationships and in our homes. The Canberra Liberals and I welcome the safety action pilot and other initiatives. We welcome reaching out to children and young people about their experiences—something that I have long been calling for. We welcome listening to and being led by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and we also mourn for victims—Judy, Kayla, Thanh, Lordy, Kelly, Kobi and, more recently, Kerry Rooney.

When the safer families levy was announced by the ACT government in 2016, I welcomed investment in our underfunded front-line domestic and family violence services. The government had announced that the levy would directly fund a range of new programs aimed at improving outcomes for victims of domestic violence and their families. Like many Canberrans at the time, I felt privileged to be contributing to support front-line services; and, like many Canberrans, I now have concerns about how the safer families levy is being spent.

The first phase of the levy provided $770,000 for the training of front-line staff across community and emergency services, health and education to support the effective identification of family violence and early intervention. I believe that this was a worthwhile initiative. Employees in all of these sectors work closely with a broad segment of the population and are likely to encounter possible victims of abuse.

Not long after that, the ACT government announced that $2.4 million of the safer families levy would be spent on training all 21,000 ACT government staff. This decision has caused significant concern for many Canberrans, as well as local community organisations. Expanding training to every single ACT public servant appears to be an addition to standard work health and safety training for public servants within each directorate at the expense of front-line service providers.

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