Thank you to the Commissioner for Children Mark Morrissey and his team for initiating this important report; Children and Young People’s Unique Experiences of Family Violence; Family Violence and children and young people in Tasmania.
It is, as its author says, “building on the positive progress already underway” to strengthen our understanding of family violence, the needs of children and young people who are its victims, and the responses we can put in place to support them.
For as horrifying; how unimaginable; how confronting; even demoralising as it is, if we are to make real progress we need to fully understand the causes and the true impacts of family violence if we are to respond appropriately, and as best we can.
As the Commissioner says: It is becoming increasingly clear that children and young people have their own unique experiences of family violence and that they are victims in their own right… they are particularly vulnerable… Often they are the silent or invisible victims. We need different responses and perspectives when supporting children and young people who experience family violence.”
I’ve always believed that no government can have all the answers to something so evil, so pervasive, so common place. It must be a community response. So I welcome this report, its findings and its recommendations.
While Our Action Plan does provide targeted support for children and young people – for example, through additional psychologists, counselling and social workers. And by delivering respectful relationships education programs in every Tasmanian Government school from next year.
I’ve also always acknowledged the fact, as experts have warned and as our Family Violence Action Plan envisages, that demand for support services is likely to increase over time as attitudes change and reporting increases. And we must always remember that there are many, too many, cases that go unreported, unseen.
Yes, we do know that police are attending more family violence incidents. And I would rather us know the truer extent of the problem we face. Because then, and by strengthening and boosting support services as we are doing, we are becoming increasingly better placed to meet this demand.
But it is disturbing, if sadly not unexpectedly, that children are recorded as being present at around two thirds of these incidents. This report records at least 1,757 Tasmanian children we do know of who have experienced or witnessed family violence in a year. We know there are more.
Importantly this report reminds us – vividly, sensitively, powerfully - that they are much more than just statistics. They are victims in their own right. They are children with the absolute right to live free from all forms of violence, abuse and neglect. They are graphically but respectfully recognised throughout this report.
Finally, thank you to all those who speak out. To our inspirational Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty. You have not only changed the nation’s attitudes, but have been so important here in Tasmania at each step, as we implement our Family Violence Action Plan. To the strong young women of Project O, thank you for your powerful message today. And to the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Mark Morrissey, for providing a voice to young Tasmanians.
My Government remains entirely committed to accepting responsibility, and effecting positive change. This Report will further assist us in our efforts. Thank you.