Royal Commission call heard after four more SA women die

State Minister for Women Katrine Hildyard stood on the Parliament House steps this morning to say the government will consider a Royal Commission into violence against women – after four women were killed in one week, allegedly at the hands of men they knew.

Nov 24, 2023, updated Nov 24, 2023
Deirdre Flynn from Catherine House calls for support of a Royal Commission into men's violence against women. Photo: Tony Lewis

Deirdre Flynn from Catherine House calls for support of a Royal Commission into men's violence against women. Photo: Tony Lewis

Hundreds of women and men gathered at the North Terrace rally to back calls for an urgent meeting between Embolden – the state’s peak body for family, domestic and sexual violence – with Premier Peter Malinauskas and for the establishment of a Royal Commission.

Minister for Women and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Katrine Hildyard committed to meeting with the sector when the Premier returns from paternity leave after the birth of his son George.

She said the State Government was already taking action and would introduce new laws to criminalise coercive control early next year.

“We are considering a Royal Commission but what we are also considering is what we can do in the short term,” Hildyard said.

In the past week, four women have been allegedly murdered by men they knew in South Australia.

Jodie Jewell was shot dead by her estranged husband Kevin Jewell on Tuesday, with his body found on Yorke Peninsula yesterday.

Three other women have been allegedly killed by a man known to them: at Felixstow on November 15, near Port Augusta on November 16, and in Morphett Vale on November 19. Three men have been charged with murder.

“To the loved ones of these four women who have been horrifically, tragically (allegedly) murdered, can I express my condolences and my commitment that we will take action,” Hildyard said.

“We need men to stop harming women.”

Minister Katrine Hildyard says the government will consider a Royal Commission. Photo: Tony Lewis

The Embolden alliance, representing 18 women’s safety, legal and welfare groups, wrote to Malinauskas pleading for “urgent action” and a commitment to fund a royal commission into the extent of domestic violence in SA and how to better respond.

Among the crowd today were those who have survived domestic violence.

“I’m a survivor of domestic violence… I have two daughters and I want their future to be better than what it is at present and that can only be through new laws, through government, through a commitment from society,” Margaret, who did not want to share her surname, said.

“I was married for 15 years and once there were children and they were small, things began changing …. I was locked out of my house, out of my bank accounts, with two small children.

“This violence is happening everywhere, in every socio-economic layer, every cultural background, there’s no discrimination.”

Family violence survivor and national campaigner Rosie Batty and the children of murdered Adelaide women Zahra Abrahimzadeh and Graziella Dailler have supported the Royal Commission call.

“A coronial inquest into my mother’s murder 15 years ago led to a number of changes in police responses and penalties for perpetrators of violence, as well as a greater focus on advancing gender equality in SA,” Arman Abrahimzadeh, who is co-founder of Zahra Foundation Australia, said.

“However, four women being killed in one week, as well as the consistent stories we hear from the women we support at Zahra Foundation Australia makes it clear that the system is not working.

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“Women and their children struggle to be believed, to navigate the justice system, to gain access to stable housing, and to recover from financial abuse.”

Arman Abrahimzadeh, who is co-founder of Zahra Foundation Australia. Photo: Tony Lewis

A Royal Commission to hear women’s experiences and their need for safety and recovery must be at the centre of the state’s response to lead to “wholesale systemic reform”, Abrahimzadeh said.

Opposition spokesman for the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Josh Teague said the Liberal Party would also consider supporting a Royal Commission, while the Greens parliamentary leader Tammy Franks said her party would move in parliament next Tuesday to have the commission established.

Catherine House client services manager Deirdre Flynn said urgent action was needed, as the organisation continued to support “women who are made homeless as a result of domestic violence”.

“We can push back, we can show resistance by being educated, we can show resistance by calling out this behaviour,” Flynn said.

We know men are in the shadows behaving badly

SA Unions secretary Dale Beasley also spoke at the this morning’s rally, saying unions have been lobbying for workplaces to support women economically to leave dangerous relationships.

“As a man I would say it’s time for all men to stand up,” he said.

OARS Community Transitions and the Centre for Restorative Justice chief executive Leigh Garrett said it was also important to take urgent action.

He said the organisation would reinstate with its own resources an online counselling service that operated during the COVID pandemic for men wanting help in dealing with changing violent behaviours, but which later lost funding.

During the pandemic 500 men accessed the service and, in the lead-up to Christmas with more economic pressures on households, Garrett believed it was particularly important to to support men contemplating or using violence.

“The scariest stat to me is how many women die at the hands of men who haven’t come to the attention of authorities,” he said.

Among the crowd gathered this morning, Jamie Lee explained his presence by describing a determination to make a difference. Lee already works in the sector and is educating his sons aged 15, 10 and seven about men being better.

“We need to do more at all levels, starting with me as a father with boys, to men stepping up to speak out, to legislation,” he said.

“This violence happens through the actions of men who think this kind of behaviour is about being a man and I think as men, we can do better.”

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