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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 16 September 2021) . . Page.. 2670 ..

It is important for our nation—the whole world, in fact—to listen to survivors’ stories. Whilst they are disturbing to hear, the reality of what goes on behind closed doors is much more so.

In this place I have talked about and reflected on my own conversations with people in my community, particularly leading up to elections but beyond—on their doorsteps and on their phones. I know every other person here has had thousands of those conversations as well. I reckon in those conversations there would not be too many who, when you were talking to them on the doorstep of their homes, would be disclosing that they had been a victim of domestic and family violence or that they were fearful that they were going to perpetrate that violence. It remains such a hidden issue in our communities, even when you are on the front door of it happening. That is why it is so important to really understand what is going on in our community but also in the privacy of our own homes and our suburbs.

The death review will allow us to hear the stories of lived experience unedited and unsanitised, and to change the practices and systems based on the learnings that they provide. One of the key reports that prompted the implementation of this legislation and the establishment of the death review in the ACT was the 2016 Domestic Violence Prevention Council review into domestic and family violence deaths in the ACT.

Even with the limited scope of the review, we learned some key and important things for the ACT. It demonstrated that first contact services often did not recognise the risk to victims because they focused on physical violence and not the coercive control that indicates serious risks of ongoing and severe violence—that first contact and other mainstream services missed key risk factors like separation and pregnancy, which are indicative of increased risk of severe and escalating violence.

The review also showed that the community workers and the victims themselves had issues identifying domestic and family violence and did not know what supports and services were available. These were all important findings. While the government, of course, continues to respond to those findings, there need to be mechanisms, such as a permanent death review, to enable a continuation of this learning and improve understandings and responses to domestic and family violence.

Because the ACT is a small jurisdiction, and to maximise learnings, the scope of the death review is broader than those of most other Australian jurisdictions. The ACT death review will include examination of near fatal assaults and accidents where domestic and family violence was known or suspected to be present. This means that we do not have to wait until a woman or child is murdered to learn how to improve systems and responses.

It also allows for a diverse range of services and for people to refer a possible matter to the death review for consideration, which might not have been formally identified by the service or justice system as having a domestic violence presence. Given statistics show that the majority of domestic and family violence is not formally recorded, this expanded remit is critical to obtaining as full a picture of domestic and family violence in the community as possible.

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