Former Governor-General Quentin Bryce, who chaired the Special Task force on Domestic and Family Violence, handed the report Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on February 28.
The task force was established on September 10 last year by the previous LNP government and charged to deliver its findings by February 28. It included several now-former MPs.
The task force received public submissions and conducted wide-ranging community consultations, including focus groups and an online survey, over a six-month period. It also reviewed domestic violence legislation in Queensland and undertook a jurisdictional analysis of the justice response to domestic and family violence in Australia.
The report noted: “In 2013-14, there were 66,016 occurrences of domestic and family violence reported to Queensland police. This equates to over 180 incidents of domestic and family violence being reported every day across the state. 17 homicides relating to domestic and family violence occurred in Queensland in 2012-13. On average, across Australia, one woman is killed by her partner every week. The annual cost of domestic and family violence to the Queensland economy is estimated to be between $2.7 billion to $3.2 billion.”
The report highlighted the impact of domestic violence in Aboriginal communities, as well as vulnerable groups, such as women with disability and the elderly.
The report said: “Understanding the gendered nature of domestic and family violence is vital in designing the response model and identifying reforms to provide better support to victims and measures to change the culture.”
In presenting the report, Bryce said its central focus was on supporting victims and holding offenders to account for their actions. In the foreword to the report, Bryce wrote: “Three fundamental themes emerged during the review … the cultural attitudes of our community; the role of services and the importance of an integrated response; and the functions of our legal and justice systems.
“As the review progressed, the task force was left in no doubt that there is a direct nexus between culture and community attitudes, and the continued prevalence and perpetration of domestic and family violence. The attitudes, knowledge and beliefs of individuals and communities can and do create a culture that justifies, excuses, perhaps trivialises or even condones or encourages domestic violence.”
The report lists 140 detailed recommendations, which provide the framework for a domestic violence prevention strategy. The task force recommended that an independent audit and advocacy oversight body be established. It urged the government “to commence with implementation of the recommendations immediately, and allow for the strategy to build upon this implementation, rather than waiting to act until there is a formalised strategy in place”.
Emphasis was placed on the development of a communications and education strategy as a preventative approach. The task force also called for immediate changes to industrial law to provide flexible working conditions, including paid domestic violence leave in the public service.
The task force examined the range of services available across Queensland and recognised that these were strained and there were gaps. An integrated service model was proposed. The report says “recent coronial inquests have found that a lack of coordination between services — particularly generalist services such as health and police — contributed to the deaths of victims of domestic homicide.”
Funding for three pilot integrated models for a minimum of five years was recommended for inclusion in the forward estimates, as well as two new crisis shelters, in Brisbane and Townsville.
To hold perpetrators responsible, improvements to the court system were recommended: the establishment of specialist domestic violence courts, with specialist magistrates and improved support services at court.
The task force recommended two changes to sentencing laws: the introduction of a circumstance of aggravation for all criminal offences related to domestic and family violence, so that penalties are commensurate to the crimes; and recording on a person’s criminal record that the offence was in the context of domestic and family violence. A history of violence would also exclude any presumption of bail for perpetrators.
The report was welcomed by those working in the community sector. Caboolture Regional Domestic Violence Service coordinator Kimberly James said: "The recommendations are significant, and cover all facets of domestic violence and family violence.
"I think that if three quarters of the recommendations are adopted it will change the face of domestic violence in Queensland."
Palaszczuk said: "We will now examine the task force recommendations to determine how improved support can be provided to families and individuals experiencing violence."