Shadow Minister Jenny Aitchison in Cootamundra for domestic violence roundtable

DISCUSSION OPENED: Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Jenny Aitchison with community representatives and service providers in Cootamundra this week. Picture: Jennette Lees
DISCUSSION OPENED: Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Jenny Aitchison with community representatives and service providers in Cootamundra this week. Picture: Jennette Lees

Community representatives and support organisations joined Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Jenny Aitchison on Wednesday in Cootamundra for a roundtable conversation tackling the subject. 

Ms Aitchison, who is also the Member for Maitland and Shadow Minister for Small Business, said the roundtable provided an opportunity to speak directly to people on the ground. 

She has conducted more than 15 roundrables on the subject across the state with most of these being in metropolitan areas. 

She said Cootamundra provided one of the largest cross-sections of any community, giving her a valuable insight into what the local issues are.

She said regional areas, such as Cootamundra, throw up different scenarios to look at from metropolitan areas including the fact there is no women’s refuge in town and a lack of immediate medical services for sexual assault victims. 

Following the meeting, Ms Aitchison said attendees wanted a ‘back to basics’ start when it came to awareness and education around domestic violence and sexual assault.

“There is a long way from no services to a women’s refuge,” Ms Aitchison said. 

“There needs to be a clear picture of what can be done and what support and services there are,” she continued. 

Of concern, Ms Aitchison said, is the shortage of sexual assault nurse examiners in the state. 

She discovered during a similar roundtable conversation in Wagga, that when a person is sexually assaulted they may have to go to Canberra or Adelaide to be examined; a situation which is clearly not good enough and which Ms Aitchison said punishes the victim at a time the system should be looking after them.

She is also calling for education about domestic violence to start younger with Labor advocating for a Kindergarten to Year 12 approach to the ‘Respectful Relationships’ program, which is currently rolled out from Year 7 on. 

Presently, the Respectful Relationships program is delivered by teachers with Ms Aitchison saying these people are not necessarily experts in the field; a fact she said needs to be looked at.