From Commission President Dr Helen Watchirs OAM

SUNDAY 8 March marks International Women’s Day. This year we are celebrating the day in the shadow of a recent horrific case of family violence – the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children in Brisbane. Five years after Rosie Batty was named Australian of the Year, for her ground-breaking campaigning on family violence, how much progress has been made in keeping women, children and families safe?

If you are concerned about family violence, you can contact 1800 RESPECT. Victims of crime can contact our Victim Support team on 1800 822 272. If you have experienced gender-based discrimination, or discrimination as a victim of family violence, you can complain to the Discrimination Commissioner via the complaints page on our website or by calling 6205 2222.

It was an honour for me to be named in the ACT Senior Woman of the Year in the ACT 2020 women’s awards. Congratulations too to Cindy Mitchel, ACT Woman of 2020 and Shiralee Sankey, ACT Young Woman of the Year. I was humbled to be recognised alongside such inspiring women.

This year in the Commission’s Victim Support team, we have welcomed three intermediaries. There has been immediate and strong demand for their expertise, assisting children, disabled people and other vulnerable witness to give clear, credible evidence to police and the courts.

Our human rights policy team have made many recent important submissions. They include one on a Legislative Assembly review into child protection services in the ACT; and another on the right to work.

We continue to advocate strongly for child protection decisions to be open to external review; and for greater transparency around decision-making, and improved information sharing. On March 20, the Commission and Legal Aid are hosting a community forum about the urgent need for these reforms. Contact humanrightsmedia@act.gov.au for more details.

In the interests of improving service responses for children and young people experiencing family violence, the Children and Young People Commissioner is currently engaged in a joint project with the Coordinator-General for Family Safety, and has already heard from nearly 70 young people aged 13 to 24 years old about their needs for support. Preliminary results confirm that children and young people’s experiences of family violence are different to those of adults. They need different supports and services but their experience is of a system response designed by, and for, adults. By consulting with young people, we have generated insights that will enable the ACT Government, the service sector and the community to improve support and services for children and young people affected by domestic and family violence.

Save the date: I am honoured to be delivering this year’s annual Blackburn Lecture on May 12, during Law Week 2020. It’s the first time a Commissioner has been asked to give this prestigious address.