Palaszczuk: DV recommendations are a priority
ANNASTACIA Palaszczuk has given her strongest indication yet that a specialised domestic violence magistrate's court will be operating soon in Queensland.
In an exclusive interview with APN Newsdesk, the Premier confirmed money would likely be set aside in her first state budget to fund some of the 140 recommendations from the Not Now, Not Ever family violence taskforce report.
Alluding to the tryout of a domestic-violence specific court, Ms Palaszczuk also confirmed she would like to see respectful relationship classes rolled out across the state's public schools.
In a meeting with Australian Regional Media editorial director Bryce Johns on Thursday, Ms Palaszczuk accepted a petition signed by more than 2500 people calling for both options to be put in place.
They were prompted by a campaign launched by this newspaper and 11 other dailies in the Australian Regional Media footprint across Queensland and NSW.
"It's something that my government is going to give serious consideration to," she said in reference to specialist courts.
"I'm passionate about it and I think if we can trial it, it's something that we should seriously look at.
"We used to have specialised courts in Queensland - we had the drug court, we had the special circumstances court.
"Unfortunately the previous government abolished those ... I believe that they do work, the evidence says that they do work."
Ms Palaszczuk said teaching children about healthy relationships would make a difference in the long term.
"We need to raise awareness and it needs to start at a young age - so the education minister, Kate Jones, and I will have further discussions around that," she said.
"It's about recognising issues but also respecting women - so we need to make sure the curriculum would cover those issues."
Ms Palaszczuk said solid commitments were likely to flow during the state budget announcements in July.
"At the moment the government is now considering those (Not Now, Not Ever report) recommendations - there's a lot of recommendations there," she said.
"We need to work out the ones that we will be prioritising.
"I would hope that we will be able to announce some measures in this year's budget."
Since coming to power at the start of the year, the state government formed a committee to examine family violence prevention and committed about $14 million for support services.
About 34 Australians are believed to have died as a result of domestic violence this year.
In Queensland, police respond to about 180 family assaults daily.
Change in the hands of state government
A PETITION calling for domestic-violence focused magistrates and compulsory respectful relationship classes in state schools is in the hands of the Queensland Government.
Australian Regional Media editorial director Bryce Johns on Thursday handed over a document carrying more than 2500 signatures to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
The petition caps ARM's four-week Terror at Home campaign.
The campaign, published across 12 newspapers in Queensland and New South Wales, shone a light on all aspects of family violence.
"I do think we need to continue to raise community awareness," Ms Palaszczuk said of the campaign.
"Your (ARM's) two goals definitely align with my views.
"It's been fantastic what you have been doing through your newspapers because the more we talk about it, the more likely women are to go and seek some help."
Mr Johns said the petition handover was a "vital" part of ARM's commitment to driving change.
"It's the first time we've been able to get close to the people who make the decisions," Mr Johns said of meeting Ms Palaszczuk.
"Without them taking this seriously, nothing can change."
Mr Johns said he was confident Ms Palaszczuk would respond to the community's need for strong leadership on the issue.
"She clearly demonstrated this was a priority for her personally and her government," Mr Johns said.
"She knows the subject. But so often with politicians, it is harder to get the commitment.
"We have to take her at face value that change will start to come in her first budget.
"If not, expect our newspapers to ramp up the pressure."
The personal stories that moved the Premier
THREE strangers. Three Australian states. Three stories of love and violence.
It's the trio of circumstances that left an indelible mark on one of the country's most high profile women.
After consigning the LNP's Campbell Newman to history in January, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk faced some serious hiccups in her first months as the state's boss.
The Billy Gordon scandal, greyhound trainer cruelty allegations, political donation laws and Cyclone Marcia kept the 46-year-old on her toes.
So trying to peg Ms Palaszczuk down for a face-to-face interview has been no mean feat.
Finally on Thursday, the premier invited APN Newsdesk into her Brisbane office to talk about an issue close to her heart - domestic violence.
Politicians rarely reveal the person beneath the media polish, but for a few moments during the 18-minute discussion, the mask slipped as the premier revealed her determination to right wrongs.
"There should be no deaths," she says of the 34 women believed to have died at the hands of someone they love this year.
"We need to get to a level where as a community we raise awareness of these issues."
The experiences of three women touched in different ways by domestic violence are helping push Ms Palaszczuk towards a just outcome for vulnerable mothers and their children.
As a policy advisor in NSW about 20 years ago, Ms Palaszczuk met a remarkable woman for whom the scars of love gone wrong would never fade.
Donna Carson, a Dubbo teacher, was speaking publicly about the shocking day in 1994 that changed her life.
Ms Carson was arguing with her partner, when he doused her in petrol and lit a match.
She spent fifteen months undergoing rehabilitation for extremely disfiguring facial and upper body burns.
"This beautiful woman was set on fire by her partner," Ms Palaszczuk recalled.
"I remember hearing her speak and I had the opportunity to meet her.
"I could not imagine how anyone could do that to another human being.
"It was beyond comprehension.
"Her experience touched me."
In 2008 - two years after becoming the Labor Party's Legislative Assembly representative for Inala - Ms Palaszczuk realised the horrible impact domestic violence was having on her community.
Helping to start support services for the constituents who were most at risk, the politician often found herself listening to the victims' stories.
"At one stage a lady - who had a couple of children - came to see me," she said.
"She had to leave her home.
"I did everything in my power that I could in terms of finding her alternate accommodation.
"It was a threat to her life.
"In those situations you sit down, you talk to the families."
Leaders across the country are scrambling to work out how to stem the shameful epidemic.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott is rolling out a national awareness campaign while shaking off criticisms about support service funding cuts.
In Queensland, Ms Palaszczuk is considering the 140 recommendations put forward by the Premier's Special Taskforce on Domestic Violence in February.
One of the recommendations, family-violence specific magistrates, looks set to be trialled soon.
And it's a plan that has the backing of anti-violence campaigner Rosie Batty.
About 14 months ago, Ms Batty's ex-partner Greg Anderson killed their son Luke during cricket training outside Melbourne.
The 53-year-old's strength and eloquence in the weeks following the tragedy drew wide acclaim.
Like most Australians, Ms Palaszczuk's respect for Ms Batty is immense.
Speaking of meeting her in April, the premier said she was heartened by the Australian of the Year's support of her government's plans to tackle domestic violence.
"I spoke to her at length about whether or not she thought pursuing this option (family violence courts) would be beneficial," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"From her experiences she said that it may provide some form of comfort to women who are going through domestic violence."
While there is no one solution to end violence against women and children, Ms Palaszczuk is in a pivotal position to make a difference for generations of Queenslanders to come.
"What Quentin Bryce has handed down is one of the most comprehensive reports that we've ever seen in this state," she said of the Not Now, Not Ever report.
The massive document took about six months to compile and was based on the experiences of victims, support workers, police and violence experts.
"My job now as premier is to prioritise those recommendations and where possible implement those as quickly as possible," Ms Palaszczuk said.
- APN NEWSDESK