Speeches Chris has made in the Australian Federal Parliament.

Chris Hayes MP – Adjournment - Domestic and Family Violence

June 23, 2021

Mr HAYES (Fowler—Chief Opposition Whip) (18:32): Earlier this month I had the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, and the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare, join me at an event hosted by Bonnie Support Services at Cabramatta in the heart of my electorate. The event was an opportunity to discuss some of the very pressing issues facing my community, particularly the issue of domestic violence and the increasing prevalence of that during the COVID-19 pandemic. The highlighting of the issue of domestic violence has been brought about in light of a range of issues that have demonstrated the urgent need for more crisis accommodation for women and children fleeing violence.

I take this opportunity to thank Tracy Phillips, the Executive Officer of Bonnie Support Services, and Ms An Le, the Program Manager, for their ongoing advocacy and community education in respect of domestic violence. As Tracy Phillips notes, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought an array of challenges for the support services provided by their organisation. She says, 'It's been a very complex 14 months or so since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact on Bonnie has been enormous, as no doubt it has been on all services specialising in homeless areas.' Tracy went on to say, 'We saw a doubling in the number of clients from the 2019-20 financial year, and currently our numbers are running extremely high.'

These statistics really put in perspective the dire situation faced by organisations like Bonnie Support Services in my community and indeed across the nation. I'm told that Bonnie have not only seen an increase in the number of women and children experiencing domestic violence over the past year, but also seen a significant increase in the complexity of these matters during the pandemic. The nature of domestic violence sees women almost isolated before they leave the perpetrator, and in COVID-19 that's only been exacerbated. These feelings are due to the lockdown restrictions and socialised isolation provisions. There have been plenty of examples and case studies from Bonnie's of women who are struggling to buy the essential groceries for their families or put food on the table, with the finances of many of these women impacted by the economic ramifications of the pandemic. In many cases women have lost their employment or have been forced to give up their employment to look after children during these lockdown periods.

I'm also advised of the added challenge faced during the pandemic by organisations such as Bonnie's in dealing with clients who are on temporary visas but still nevertheless are experiencing domestic violence. Now, many of these people have either lost their employment or have no work rights and no access to welfare. These women are also very socially isolated and may not have family or friends in the country who can provide housing or support. These women are most vulnerable and in most cases ineligible for any long-term public housing.

It is clear that the biggest challenge facing Bonnie's and similar organisations is the severe shortage of affordable and social housing. Local service providers are struggling to keep up with the demand for crisis accommodation and transitional housing as the number of women sleeping rough in our community continues to rise. With the lack of long-term social and affordable housing, many women are facing domestic violence and continue either to be pushed into homelessness or to risk returning to a violent partner. In a country like ours, this is just not acceptable.

Access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing for women experiencing domestic violence is a basic human right, and there is much more that this government can do to address this crisis. That's why I am proud of Labor's commitment, as part of our housing policy, to 4,000 social housing properties to be set aside for women and children fleeing domestic violence. After all, it is what all the experts and those working in the field have been saying is the only viable solution to this crisis. To Tracy Phillips and her team at Bonnie Support Services, on behalf of a very grateful community I say thank you. Your commitment to the community makes a difference for the better.