Subjects: National Summit on Women’s Safety
PAUL MURRAY: We began by dealing with perhaps the hardest thing to talk about here, which is what do you do when somebody has already made a conscious decision that they’re going to break the law. What amount of education or conversation can possibly break that? Here’s my chat with Amanda Stoker.
AMANDA STOKER: Look, in any barrel you're going to have a few bad apples. What all the things that governments do have to be about in this space is making sure that there are consequences that are meaningful for the bad apples, and as much support as is possible to help the apples that remain stay as good as is possible. But you're quite right. It's very difficult to come up with a program that fundamentally changes human nature, or at least changes it quickly. So we need to be realistic about the nature of the problem we're dealing with here. It's not a matter of simply changing a criminal law or putting in place one more program. This is about the fundamentals of how, usually men and women, but I guess it can be in other situations too, relate to one another. How people go into relationships and the skillset they bring to solving problems when they arise.
PAUL MURRAY: Minister, you know the system that exists right now to take care of the victims of domestic violence. But are you surprised that maybe there are things that we assume that are there for people, that aren't? Are there things that we need to do to improve the services when somebody actually reaches out?
AMANDA STOKER: I think it varies. In a lot of places you find pretty good quality crisis care, if you find yourself in a situation where it is extremely dangerous and you have to leave. But that's fairly short term, and once you’re through that crisis stage there isn't necessarily a great program for planning out what the next five years looks like. I think we've also observed that there are a lot of assumptions we take into this space that aren’t borne out by the people who are in real positions of vulnerability. One example I'll give you is that there is a great organisation called Stand By You that operates in the Gold Coast. And Chris Boyle, who runs it, explained to me a long time ago that for the most vulnerable women in our community, they won't actually call the police in circumstances where there is domestic violence. Because the first thing that pops into their mind is, ‘as soon as I do that child safety comes for my kids, because I'm admitting this isn't a safe environment for our family to live. I can't lose my kids, they're all I've got’. So they don't call the police. So they don't get into the system that means they're going to get the help they need. So his organisation designs solutions around smartwatches to help people record the information they need, should they have to go to the courts, but also so they can call the key people in their life who might knock on the door to keep them safe. And just knowing that that is what goes through the mind of many vulnerable people in our community changes the way you look at helping them in times of crisis.
PAUL MURRAY: So I know you're a person of action. So tell everyone watching right now, how do we go from the speeches this week to action next week?
AMANDA STOKER: Sure, it is really important that this stuff is followed up with action, because talkfests don't help anyone. One example that came up today is that a representative from the banks mentioned in the Financial Security Forum that, oftentimes, the ability to put a little message in when you transfer money using a bank's app, for instance, can be used to effect coercive control and intimidation on people who have other history that means those threats can appear very real – and in circumstances where other orders are in place to stop most types of communications happening. Taking that reflection means those in the banks are able to put measures in place, when they know a customer has that experience, to change the functionality of the money transferring aspect of their app. So those kind of practical outcomes really will make a difference to the person who is effectively on the run, and needs help urgently. It can help to get around a lot of that bureaucratic barrier to people getting a hand when they really need it.
PAUL MURRAY: She's a really impressive woman, and I think she's up for very big things. I honestly do, about Amanda Stoker. And her heart couldn't be more in this, and she's going to be like a dog with a bone trying to change the system. But it is interesting about how complicated it is. And I know that that's not going to please activists. And I know that that means Twitter is going to be angry and all the rest of it. But that is what we are dealing with.