The Labor Party will introduce a private member’s Bill in Parliament which seeks to provide ten days of paid domestic violence leave.
The Bill will move to introduce the ten days as a universal workplace right in the National Employment Standards. Currently, the national standard is five days unpaid leave.
On Tuesday, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney and Shadow Minister for Women Julie Collins moved a notice of intention to present the Bill.
“Ten days paid leave gives people a chance to, if they’re leaving the relationship, to re-establish themselves in another place. There is enormous trauma that accompanies this, and it is a very, very scary and difficult time in people’s lives,” Burney said.
“If there are children involved, it may mean you have to relocate them and get them into a new school. There is an array of appointments and commitments you have, and you need one or two-days’ space to think about what you have to do.
“If they’re not leaving the relationship and staying in the home, they have to be able to make their home safe.”
For victims to leave a circumstance of family and domestic violence, they must have financial security and ample time. The Bill is a safeguard for victims within the workforce and provides financial safety.
“There is comfort in terms of continued employment, and the challenge of course is that you do have to disclose why you’re seeking leave, but there is confidentiality built into that,” Burney said.
Currently in Australia, family and domestic violence is the leading cause of death, disability and illness for women aged between 15 and 44.
According to Impact Australia, as of November 13, 43 women have been murdered from alleged domestic and family violence matters this year.
“Imagine if there was a bloke being taken by a shark every week. It would be front-page news … there would be enormous response. And yet, it seems we have a woman dying every week on average and in many instances, it doesn’t even make the news,” Burney said.
Research also shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are disproportionately affected by family and domestic violence.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2018 Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia report noted that in 2014-15, Indigenous women were 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence as their non-Indigenous counterparts.
Between 2012-13 to 2013-14, 41 per cent of Indigenous homicide victims were killed by a current or former partner—double the rate of non-Indigenous victims.
“It is such an important discussion within the Aboriginal community and what is equally important, particularly from my discussions with Aboriginal women, is that there be appropriate programs for men as well,” Burney said.
The Shadow Minister recognised the work of NSW Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman.
“I really congratulate Mark Speakman as well for the really strong stance he has taken in relation to this issue. It is really important that men’s voices be part of this discussion.”
The Bill will be introduced to Federal Parliament next week, during the United Nation’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which began on November 25 and continues until December 10.
Minister Burney is pre-empting resistance from Government.
“We have unanimous support amongst the Labor Party, I suspect the Government will not support this,” she said.
“I have not challenged the crossbench yet, but I would be surprised if we don’t get support.”
The Bill adds to the Labor Party’s established anti-violence stance; NSW Labor is leading coercive control legislation negotiations in NSW.
Wednesday also saw WA Labor open the state’s first family and domestic violence one-stop hub, Mara Birni Healing Place, in Kalgoorlie.
“Tragically, Aboriginal women experience family and domestic violence at higher rates than non-Aboriginal women. Mara Birni Healing Place is a much-needed service to engage with Aboriginal women and their families in a safe space,” said WA Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk.
Minister Burney said Labor’s anti-violence stance will be a key point of their election campaign.
“This issue is being taken seriously, it will form the centrepiece going forward in terms of Labor’s policy for the next election,” she said.
NIT contacted the Office of the Minister for Women Marise Payne for comment, however, did not receive a response by time of publication.
By Rachael Knowles