The February 2020 Senate Inquiry into Domestic Violence – Part 1

The February 2020 Senate Inquiry into Domestic Violence.

Did it fail?


Following the horrific murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children in February this year, our Federal Senate referred an inquiry to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee to report on and grade the efficiency of our current strategies in combating domestic and family violence, where improvements could be made and how effective we have been as a country in meeting our targets.

The result? After three months, the report was handed in early and, in a “somewhat unprecedented” move, the committee failed to hold a single hearing or seek any submissions from public bodies. Ultimately, the committee noted the comprehensive work done in the previous inquiries and felt that another lengthy and wide-ranging one at the present time would be of limited benefit and divert attention and resources away from front-line services.

In a scathing rebuke, South Australia’s Senator Rex Patrick tore shreds through the inaction of the committee to advise on whether our current measures are being implemented effectively. At face value, it might be easy to agree with Mr Patrick that the February 2020 inquiry was a colossal waste of time and taxpayer money. But before we all condemn this committee and label all the Government initiatives as ineffective, it is important to look at both the statistics and see what work was already underway before the February 2020 Senate inquiry was commissioned.

While these stories rarely make the front page, in 2010 Australia adopted a National Plan with the goal of a significant and sustained reduction in violence against women and their children. Since 2015, we’ve already looked into how effective our measures have been on multiple occasions and one as recently as June last year.

Although each State has separate legislation for domestic violence (and the criminal act of breaching protective orders), there have been significant improvements championed nationwide. In recent years we’ve seen court orders now being recognised across state lines, the establishment of a Minister for Women Cabinet position, greater cooperation between police agencies, the creation of a specialised Family Violence Court and record levels of federal funding towards tackling family violence. The public and private availability of emergency assistance for victims looking to escape violent situations are also undoubtedly excellent initiatives.

Overall, the focus on early prevention programs such as Queensland’s ‘Stop it at the Start’ ad campaign and positive relationships being taught in our schools as part of the curriculum have been assessed to be having a positive effect though it is still early days.

However, the obvious questions remain – how do we measure progress in this area? Can we be confident the current government-led initiatives have any chance of success? In part two of this series we will tackle these questions and more.

Joshua Noble is a Solicitor at Zande Law Solicitors, Suite 7, Norwinn Centre, 15 Discovery Drive, North Lakes.  To contact Joshua for advice, phone 3385 0999.

The information in this article is merely a guide and is not a full explanation of the law.  This firm cannot take responsibility for any action readers take based on this information.  When making decisions that could affect your legal rights, please contact us for professional advice.