19 November 2020

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL (Coogee) (13:04:15): I thank the member for Shellharbour for moving this very important motion, which presents a commonsense approach to the treatment of head injuries in cases of domestic violence. Head injuries are some of the most dangerous and sickening injuries that can occur. The true impacts can be hard to spot initially but have large, long-term and devastating implications. We know a lot about head knocks, their relationship to traumatic brain injuries and how to treat them properly and effectively. The science is unquestioned and is improving every year, but we are simply not applying it to every area where it is needed. The lack of protocol around head knocks caused by domestic violence is a blinding omission and completely unforgivable. But, thankfully, it can be solved.

In comparison to the inaction of this Government, many Australian sports have introduced, and have long‑existing, concussion management guidelines to combat the issue and to protect sports players, especially in male‑dominated contact sports like the Australian Football League [AFL], rugby union and rugby league where concussions are prevalent. Methods to deal with, prevent and treat concussions are continuously being updated and researched to deal with the issue. In 2015 Cricket Australia updated its protocols. In 2013 the AFL introduced the concussion substitute and in 2012 the National Rugby League [NRL] released a four-step set of guidelines to protect against the impact of concussions. Psychiatrists and psychologists in Australia have long warned about the devastating and long-term consequences of brain trauma for domestic and family violence victims, but so far the New South Wales Government has failed to take action.

We know that domestic violence victims and survivors commonly suffer repeated blows to the head and strangulation—trauma that has lasting effects—and those facts are clearly recognised by advocates, healthcare providers, domestic violence liaison [DVL] officers and professionals who work in this field day in and day out. In 2018 Brain Injury Australia released the first study of its kind in Australia looking at the prevalence of brain injury in victims of domestic violence. It found that 40 per cent of victims of family violence who attended Victorian hospitals over a 10-year period sustained a brain injury. The study found that 31 per cent of family violence cases were children under the age of 15 and 25 per cent of those victims sustained a brain injury.

For too long this Government has failed to act to protect domestic violence victims in New South Wales, who overwhelmingly are women. While male-dominated sports in particular are leading the way, our Government time and time again sits on its hands and lags behind on critical policy that overwhelmingly relates to women. Shame! This State should be leading on this policy, not lagging. The motion should be supported by all who wish to make a real dent in the abhorrent impact that domestic violence has on so many women in this State. The solution is common sense and can be put in place almost immediately. The New South Wales Government can and should introduce specific domestic violence concussion protocols by the end of the year.