Q & A with Kay McGrath OAM

Q: What are your aims in being part of the domestic and family violence implementation council?

The Council is comprised of people with a wealth of expertise, experience, commitment, and corporate and community reach. My primary focus will be on ensuring those skills are fully utilised as we all work to support the implementation of reforms. I also want to acknowledge the outstanding work of the Council under the leadership and passion of my predecessor, Dame Quentin Bryce. It’s daunting to step into her ‘shoes’ but I will be working hard to continue to build on the foundations Dame Quentin set.

Q: What would you like to see change in the area of domestic and family prevention?

It is vital that we keep working to educate everyone about domestic and family violence, and assist those people impacted by violence. The challenge is to change attitudes and beliefs and encourage Queenslanders to call out all violent behaviour and make it absolutely unacceptable. I am looking forward to seeing how the communication campaigns that are being launched are received. The recommendations of the Not Now, Not Ever report and the Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Strategy provide us with a sound blueprint for reform. Engaging with and inspiring all Queenslanders to press on with the implementation of this work is our main task.

Q: How do you think we can achieve a Queensland free from domestic and family violence?

I’m a realist and am aware of the enormity of the challenge of tackling domestic and family violence across the entire community. I do believe we can stem the tide, but it’s going to be a long process. That is acknowledged in the 10-year life of the Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Strategy. As implementation progresses, changes are occurring that have real impacts on the lives of Queenslanders. Every time a new shelter opens in an area that didn’t previously have one, that makes a huge difference to the lives of victims who can access that service. Perhaps generational change is the key. The respectful relationships education that students are receiving in Queensland schools today will, for some students, shape their approach to relationships as they grow up. Through steps like this, progress will be made.

Q: The domestic and family violence reform program started almost two years ago – what positive changes have you seen in that time?

Respectful relationships education in Queensland schools, increased and expanded support services, tougher penalties for breaches of DVOs — there are many. Some of the positive changes may seem counter-intuitive. Recently it was announced that in the 12 months following its introduction, 798 people were charged with the non-fatal strangulation offence recommended by the Not Now, Not Ever report. While it is confronting that this violence is occurring, this offence was introduced because we know that strangulation is a key risk factor in domestic violence cases. To be in a position where our justice system has adapted to contemporary understandings of domestic and family violence is a great step forward. The number of charges laid in just 12 months shows just how important that is.