Federal Parliament - Family and Domestic Violence

18 February 2021

Dr ALYTomorrow marks a year since the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three angels. I rise today to speak on this not to inflict further pain or hurt through remembering but to remind us all that domestic violence is an open wound in this country and one that we must work to heal. In the few minutes that I have left, I want to talk into the camera to my 23-year-old self. I hope that I can get through this. Wish me luck. I don't know if she's listening. She's probably not listening, because my 23-year-old self had no interest in politics, but I do hope that she gets this message.

When he messages and he calls you 15 times a day to ask where you are and to find out where you've been, you say: 'It's because he loves you. It's because he cares and wants to protect you.' When he stops you from seeing your friends and your family, you tell yourself, 'It's just because he's a little bit possessive, because he needs you and because he wants you all to himself. When he calls you stupid and he calls you dirty, you tell yourself: 'Maybe I could be a bit smarter. Maybe I could take better care of myself. Maybe he has a point.' When he belittles you in front of his friends and in front of his family, you smile and you tell yourself, 'Well, that's just his sense of humour.' When he pushes you, when he throws things, when he slams doors, you tell yourself, 'He's got a bit of a temper, but at least he doesn't hit me.' And when he grabs you by the throat, pins you up against the wall with his fist in your face, you blame yourself for making him angry. You tell yourself it's not domestic violence because he's never actually hit you. There are no bruises, no broken bones. You haven't had to call the ambulance. You tell yourself that will never happen. But you know it very well might happen. He's capable of it. You know that, and that's what scares you the most—not what he does but what he could do.

Listen to me. Listen to me: none of this is okay. None of this is right. None of this is a normal part of a relationship. And none of this is your fault. None of it. No matter how clean that stupid kitchen is and no matter how shiny that stupid kettle is and no matter how well you fold the laundry and no matter how patient you are, things are not going to get better, because it's not you; it's him. You are not a failure. You're not. There's no reason for you to feel the sting of humiliation and shame. He made you feel that way. You're not the broken one. He needs help and he can get help, but, honey, you have to put yourself first and you have to help yourself first. So please, please get help. Tell someone. Tell a trusted friend. Tell your doctor. Tell a parent. Call 1800RESPECT—that's 1800737732. Please listen to me.

Coercive control is a part of domestic violence. It may not leave bruises and broken bones, but the emotional and psychological pain it inflicts can be just as damaging. Our nation has started a conversation about coercive control. That conversation needs to grow into a groundswell. Changing the law to make coercive control illegal will only go some of the way. It will only solve part of the problem. We need public awareness and education campaigns. We need to tell our daughters and sons that that is not okay, that that is not a normal part of a relationship. We need to overhaul the Family Court system and listen to the advice and recommendations of experts and survivors of family violence. We need more frontline services, more places for women to go when they need to leave. Until then, until we can get to that space, that wound of domestic violence will continue to fester and we will continue to mourn lives lost today, too early, too soon and too tragically.