The Law Council of Australia has labelled the majority report from the bipartisan legal and constitutional affairs references committee a “scanty literature review” in tackling domestic violence.
A Senate committee inquiry into domestic violence has finalised its report without taking evidence from any witnesses or calling for submissions, according to the LCA.
The upper house’s legal and constitutional affairs committee was tasked with a six-month inquiry after the horrific deaths of Brisbane woman Hannah Clarke and her three children in February.
But its final report was delivered on Tuesday, 19 May 2020. This is three months ahead of schedule, without accepting submissions, holding public hearings or making any recommendations.
LCA president Pauline Wright said it was a sad failure of regard for Australians killed by domestic violence.
“The report amounts to little more than a literature review, posing a number of obvious and often stated questions,” she said.
“This demonstrates a lack of commitment by decision-makers to address a serious community problem and a significant cause of death in Australia.
“The number of women in Australia who have died at the hands of a current or former partner persists without any significant reduction since 2010.”
Crossbench senator Rex Patrick, who initiated the inquiry, issued a dissenting report with one recommendation: the committee take a long hard look at itself.
“The committee failed itself, the Australian public, Hannah Clarke and her three beautiful children, Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey, and all victims of domestic violence, past, present and future,” he wrote.
The Law Council also commended Senator Patrick on the substance of his dissenting report and for calling out the failings of the committee in meeting its responsibilities, both as a committee of the Parliament and to the people of Australia.
The inquiry was given wide scope to examine the issue of family violence, including the implementation of previous recommendations, the adequacy of current measures and how the government could address cultural change.
A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare noted that one in six women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or previous partner since the age of 15. One woman was killed every nine days and one man every 29 days by a partner between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
The COVID-19 pandemic had exposed additional dangers for the victims of domestic violence, with a dramatic increase in demand for services. Eleven women have been killed in domestic violence incidents since lockdown was implemented in early March.
“A valuable opportunity to examine and improve the programs that are working well to support and protect the vulnerable members of society, has been lost,” Ms Wright said.
“Chronic underfunding of the family law system by successive governments over many years, continues to leave vulnerable families in crisis.”