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Residential Tenancies (Domestic Violence Protections) Bill Speech

Mr WINGARD  ( Mitchell ) ( 16:02 :59 ): I also rise today to support the Residential Tenancies (Domestic Violence Protections) Amendment Bill. This bill is intended to provide further protections to victims of domestic violence in the tenancy sector to terminate a residential tenancy or rooming house agreement where the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) is satisfied domestic abuse has occurred, or there is an intervention order in force against a person residing at the premises. 

Presently, a tenant or landlord may apply to SACAT to terminate a residential tenancy based on hardship; however, SACAT's powers are limited in cases where the tenant is a co-tenant with the person being violent towards them. Co-tenants are jointly liable. Thus, SACAT cannot terminate a residential tenancy unless the other tenant joins the application and indicates no opposition to it, or SACAT is satisfied that the other tenant has abandoned the residential tenancy.

In situations of domestic violence, this generally results in the victim being required to pay for damage caused to property by the perpetrator, either out of the bond or as compensation, or, in some cases, both. Under the bill, it is proposed that a tenant will be able to apply to SACAT to terminate a residential tenancy based on domestic abuse in specified circumstances (e.g., with a SAPOL report or a domestic violence service provider making the claims).

SACAT will have power to make an order terminating the residential tenancy and substitute a new tenancy agreement. SACAT will also have power to make an order that one of the co-tenants must pay compensation to the landlord. The government says that SACAT's powers in relation to the bond are designed to:

…provide a balance between the victim's interest in the bond, if any, and the landlord's right to compensation out of the bond. 

So, we can see that there are a lot of positives to come out of this bill, hence we do support it. Of course, there is always concern for a landlord's rights as well, but the government has assured us that that will be looked after.

I did mention earlier when I spoke about the White Ribbon Foundation and as we talk about domestic violence that it was not directly in my life, and what I meant by that was that it is not in my immediate family. My dad was never physically violent to my mum and my step-dad was the same. The people who are intimately close to me are very loving and caring. I know that I have been very lucky and I know that it is very different for other people out there.

 

 

Domestic violence is clearly in our community and I have seen it firsthand since coming to this role in this place. I mentioned Kerryn Morris earlier as well when I talked about White Ribbon Day. Kerryn is a social worker at the Salvation Army, Marion, and together we have worked on a number of domestic violence cases—often some of the tougher ones that Kerryn has to work with because she does an amazing job dealing with people in this situation pretty much all day every day in her role with the Salvation Army.

There are some things that come across my desk when I am working with Kerryn and other people in the community where I think this bill can really help people in our community. For example, we see women who are sleeping at friend's houses, on the streets and in shelter accommodation while they are waiting for new accommodation as they try to fight their way through this system because they are trying to avoid an abusive partner and they are suffering from domestic violence.

They are often too scared to go home because of situations like those we are looking to change with this bill, and hopefully we can create a safer environment for them to operate in. Often women calling on the subject of domestic violence are very fearful of their abuser and fearful that their abuser will find them wherever they move; as such, they often move a lot and this can make it very difficult to locate them and continue assisting them.

Kerryn has spoken at times about helping people and going down the path with them (and we have done this together) and then the person we are trying to help goes missing because they are jumping from premises to premises. Again, hopefully, the changes in this bill will help make people suffering from domestic violence more comfortable and more able to be in a more stable environment as they need or as suits their situation to enable them to get this extra help that Kerryn provides through the Salvation Army as one example.

Equally, and I must note this point as well, women are not always the victims of domestic violence. In fact, I have had a case come through my office where a couple of men have been the victims of domestic violence suffering psychological and physical abuse from their female partner. There is an increasing stigma around men if they claim to be sufferers of domestic violence, and I think that extra support for these people in this area is very much warranted as well. Men can be victims in this as well, and this legislation, again, will help both men and women who are suffering from domestic violence.

We also know that the ongoing fear is very traumatic for people who are suffering from domestic violence. I mentioned before that it has not been directly related to me, but there are clearly lots of cases of domestic violence that people do try to hide. They do find it very traumatic and very hard to come forward. Again, hopefully, changes in this legislation will give people even more confidence to be able to come forward, and if they find they are in a domestic violence situation they will be able to make changes to their environment, to their life, that will put them in a far safer environment.

In closing, I hope this bill will help the fight against domestic violence. As we have pointed out, and as has been pointed out by the member for Mount Gambier before me, it is a scourge on society. Federally, our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has made this very well known, and in this house I know that we all believe that domestic violence is a scourge on our society and that we would love to see it removed from society for good.

Hopefully, the alterations to this bill will enable women to feel safer in their home and men to feel safer in their home, especially if they are suffering from domestic violence. Hopefully, this bill will enable people to be able to move locations more easily when it is needed so that again they can feel safe and get on top of the domestic violence issues that are very much inflicting Australia at the moment.

If this bill can go a little way towards helping people, anyone in this situation, I think it will be a positive. Enabling people to be able to get out of their situation more easily can only be a good thing. 

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