“I felt sick to my stomach”: Greens call for reform following study into sexual assaults in flood aftermath

Australian Greens

Tamara Smith MP, Greens Disaster Relief Spokesperson and Member for Ballina,has today called on the NSW Labor government to implement each of the recommendations from the recent University of Newcastle study that found women were increasingly subject to sexual assault and domestic violence after a natural disaster, and in the wake of the 2022 Northern Rivers floods.

Abigail Boyd MLC, Greens Spokesperson for Gendered Violence and Abuse,has flagged that she will question the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault on the findings of this study when Parliament resumes in February.

The study made eight key recommendations for the NSW government, including “establishing triage systems to identify and respond to specific gender needs, including the provision of separate rooms for women and children in evacuation centres” and “funding of essential disaster related work undertaken by volunteer and community organisations.”

The full list of recommendations can be found here.

Tamara Smith said, “When I read this study, I felt sick to my stomach.”

“Reading the accounts of women in my community experiencing domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assault in evacuation centres after the floods is shocking.”

“The flood event that hit our communities was catastrophic and upended lives and plunged thousands of people into fear and uncertainty. Knowing that there were systemic failures from government that contributed to the suffering of women and children in evacuation centres is horrendous and unacceptable.”

“I welcome the Premier’s commitment to urgent action in this space. I’m also pleased to see the police leading an investigation into safety protocols at mass evacuation centres,” said Ms Smith.

“The Greens are calling on the NSW Government to implement each and every one of the University of Newcastle study’s eight key recommendations. That includes fully funding local recovery services and prioritising community-led solutions from women and First Nations peoples. The government must treat this issue seriously and ensure each and every point raised by this study is addressed.”

Abigail Boyd, Greens spokesperson for Gendered Violence and Abuse, said:

“We know that globally the impacts of climate change are disproportionately felt by women, girls and non-binary people. Disaster response and recovery should focus on prioritising the needs of those who are already most vulnerable in a crisis.

“Given the chronic underfunding of domestic and family violence and sexual violence frontline services in our State, and the lack of prioritisation that successive governments have given to these issues, it is sadly not surprising to hear these reports of sexual violence experienced in the aftermath of the NSW floods. Enough is enough – we’re calling on the Labor government to ensure this is the last time the needs of women and girls are ignored in a crisis.”

/Public Release. View in full here.