Ex-senator to lead South Australia’s domestic violence inquiry

Former Australian Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja will oversee the state’s Royal Commission into domestic violence, with terms of reference also announced today.

Mar 04, 2024, updated Mar 04, 2024
Premier Peter Malinauskas with Natasha Stott Despoja, who will helm the Royal Commission into Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence. Photo: David Simmons/InDaily.

Premier Peter Malinauskas with Natasha Stott Despoja, who will helm the Royal Commission into Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence. Photo: David Simmons/InDaily.

The former South Australian senator and current chair of a national foundation working to prevent domestic violence will head up the inquiry, which was prompted by the deaths of four South Australian women last year, allegedly at the hands of their partners.

The Royal Commission has a $3 million budget and will examine prevention of domestic violence, early intervention tactics, how the state can respond to family and sexual violence, recovery and healing, and coordination of government agencies with non-government organisations.

The inquiry will formally get underway on July 1 but Stott Despoja will begin preliminary work “imminently”.

Stott Despoja was named due to her extensive experience in the prevention of domestic and sexual violence, including as national Ambassador for Women and Girls from 2013 to 2016. She was also a member of the World Bank’s Gender Advisory Council from 2015 to 2017.

She is currently a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discriminiation Against Women, and served on the UN High Level Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents.

Premier Peter Malinauskas today said that the Royal Commission’s aim was to “deliver the government a suite of recommendations to enhance policy to diminish and reduce the rate and prevalence of domestic violence within our society”.

“This is a social ill. It destroys lives,” he said.

“It has intergenerational consequences that are hard to calculate or compute.

“That is why we are having a Royal Commission: to ensure that all the policy settings that are available to the state government to have a positive impact on reducing domestic violence are being utilised to their full potential.”

Stott Despoja said she looked forward to meeting “all of those in our society who have a place to contribute to the elimination of this scourge”.

“As Rosie Batty reminds us: the single biggest risk factor for being a victim of this kind of violence in society today isn’t your postcode, your education, your income… it’s being female,” she said.

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“The most important thing I believe that I will bring to this commission is a drive to see the elimination of violence against women in South Australia.”

The Premier in December met key people from the domestic and family violence sector at a roundtable following intense lobbying and a rally calling for the commission and the deaths of four South Australian women in a week.

In November 2023, Jodie Jewell was shot dead by her estranged husband Kevin Jewell with his body later found on Yorke Peninsula.

Three other women were killed by men allegedly 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.

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