Dear prime minister,
I am writing to express my deep concern about your recent announcement of a joint parliamentary inquiry into family law and child support.
I write to you from a position of significant experience as a person who has lived through domestic violence and who continues to suffer its effects post-separation.
I share parental responsibility of my children and co-parent to the best of my ability with the man who tried to strangle me and who continues to expose our children to domestic violence. Not only has this man threatened murder-suicide on multiple occasions, he has the means to enact his threats through access to firearms that were confiscated by police and then promptly released to another person for “safe keeping”.
I wake up each day wondering if this will be the day he decides to end my life as he promised. I have no lawful way to avoid regular contact with this man, and I dutifully follow our parenting orders to the letter.
As well as being a mother, I am a public servant doing my utmost every day to keep people safe. My colleagues and I work with men and women who have experienced domestic violence and we work with men and women who have perpetrated it.
We rely every day on the work of experts on this complex social issue to guide us, and ask only that you do likewise. Please listen to those on the frontline who grapple with complexity, fear and risk every day and who understand what needs to be done.
I do not need sympathy or hollow words, and nor do the other victims of domestic violence across our country. I need to know that my government cares enough about my life and the lives of my children to act now to implement what you already know needs to be done.
It may very well be the case that the terms of reference of your new inquiry are important to many, but they should not undermine the safety of children and families who need you to act now.
My concern about the fact of this inquiry is amplified by the appointment of senator Pauline Hanson as co-chair. Hanson has demonstrated through her own words that she is incapable of exercising impartiality in relation to these issues and is therefore an unsuitable choice to lead this piece of work.
She has made it clear that she believes that women like me routinely lie about domestic violence. I can assure you, prime minister, that I have not lied, and I am genuinely distressed by Hanson’s comments.
I am fearful that my abuser will take confidence from Hanson’s rhetoric and that I will be even less safe than I was before she so publicly called me, and other women like me, a liar.
I assure you that I want nothing more or less than to feel and be safe.
Because I have so little faith in the current systemic responses to domestic violence, I keep a small notebook that I have labelled “For the coroner”.
In it I have recorded each and every interaction I have had with government and government-funded systems and services in my quest for safety and a life free of fear and control. I have made it clear to my friends and family that this notebook is to be provided to the Women’s Legal Service in the event of my death at the hands of my former husband.
I do this not to be morbid, but because I want my voice to be heard at my inquest. If I have to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of shared parental responsibility, I want Australia to know what happened and why.
If the worst were to happen, I want everyday people to understand how the systems our governments have built over many election cycles have conspired to cause my death and render two young children motherless.
This is not a social issue that can be reduced to the sum of its parts. It is not a problem that political posturing and acquiescence to those with extreme and biased views can fix.
Do something that will make a difference now. Call a royal commission if you must, but please, please, please listen to the experts.
Don’t use this newly announced inquiry as an excuse to sit on your hands and do nothing to implement the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission and House of Representatives standing committee.
Please engage with smart people with the capacity to sit with untold complexity and hear the stories of everyday Australians without being tempted to recommend simplistic knee-jerk responses that will tip the precarious social balance backward and cause more death and devastation.
By pursuing the course of action you have chosen, you have emboldened those who choose to use violence against their partners and you have rendered victims more fearful and more reluctant to come forward than ever. How is this in the best interests of the country you lead?
I understand that you need to keep Hanson on-side in the Senate, but surely you have other skills in your leadership toolbox you can use to influence and collaborate without hanging vulnerable victims of family violence out to die.
This piece has been published anonymously to protect the writer