By Poppy Morandin & Jimmy Singh.
The Australian Senate’s inquiry into domestic violence has closed 3 months early, despite concerns of COVID-19 leading to a rise in incidents.
Whilst initially the committee was required to report by mid-August 2020, the inquiry was closed this week without any submissions or hearings.
“The committee formed the view that conducting another lengthy, broad-ranging public inquiry into domestic and family violence in Australia at this time would be of limited value”, stated the final report.
This is despite the inquiry being inspired by national horror following the killing of Hannah Clarke and her three children. The case formed a catalyst for further questions regarding how Australia addresses violence against women and children, with this purported to be the inquiry’s focus.
The final report amounted to 50 pages, containing dissent from South Australian Senator Rex Patrick who asserted that the committee “did not discharge its responsibility to the Parliament and, more importantly, the public.”
As no public admissions were heard or hearings held, the report essentially summarises findings of other recent reviews, with Pauline Wright, president of the Law Council of Australia deeming it a “scanty literature review,”.
“The Law Council of Australia is appalled at the lack of commitment shown by the majority report of the bipartisan Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee in tackling domestic violence.
A valuable opportunity to examine and improve the programs that are working well to support and protect the vulnerable members of society, has been lost.” Wright continued, in her public statement.
The inquiry’s inaction represents a disjuncture in the Government’s priorities, with $150 million recently committed to a campaign that seeks to aid victims of domestic violence in receiving help.
The spread of COVID-19 causing increased stress, including due to rising unemployment, has spiked concerns with many victims isolated with perpetrators due to lockdown measures.
Support lines such as 1800-Respect and MensLine Australia have seen an increase in calls compared to previous years.
Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman has also revealed that Google searches related to ‘domestic violence’ have increased by 75 per cent in recent months.
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court have reported a significant rise in applications, leading to a need for fast-tracking.
“Family law cases have increased two-fold since COVID-19, perpetration of domestic violence is a factor in many of these cases and those cases already before the court.” said one family lawyer.
However, the Bureau comments that “it is possible that domestic violence increased in March 2020 but victims were unable to report due to home confinement with their perpetrator.”
According to the Australian Institute of Crimonology on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
Recently, a man has been charged with murder, following his wife being found stabbed to death in their Quakers Hill home.
Less than a month ago, it is reported that police had taken out an apprehended violence order (AVO) against Baltej Singh Lailna for Kamaljeet Sidhu.
He was before Parramatta Local Court on Friday and was formally refused bail, with his next appearance in Penrith Local Court on July 17.
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