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Labor’s focus on women’s safety

Labour’s female candidates gather on International Woman’s Day as the party launches plans for a domestic violence court trial. From left, Melissa Cleary, Yasmin Catley, Jenny Aitchison, Sophie Cotsis, Kate Washington and Jodie Harrison. Picture: Jonathan Carroll NSW state election March 28, 2015: Get to know the seats in the Hunter

A COURT specialising in domestic violence and sexual assault will be trialled in the Hunter if Labor is elected.

Opposition spokeswoman Sophie Cotsis, armed with the region’s five women candidates and Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison, unveiled the party’s plans to stop domestic violence and improve support for victims in Newcastle on Sunday.

Ms Cotsis said unveiling the plans on International Women’s Day confirmed the party’s desire to prevent violence against women with policy that ‘‘catches victims at every step’’.

Labor would spend $14.5 million to support womens refuges, counselling services, and programs focused on preventing violence and helping men to change their behaviour.

A Premier’s Council for Women would be set up to advise the government, and the Office of Women would again become part of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The plans would also see stronger penalties for breaching Apprehended Violence Orders, and protection for victims under the Anti-Discrimination Act.

Ms Cotsis said women who had experienced domestic violence or sexual assault needed to be guided through the process to report the crime and bring the perpetrator to justice.

She said the party introduced five days paid domestic violence leave in 2009, and would double it to further support victims.

‘‘Domestic violence and sexual assault takes over their life psychologically, mentally, socially … We’re looking at this from a co-ordinated approach – increasing the awareness that we need to change behaviour and stop violence against women … and showing women that they can get support.’’

There were 2704 domestic violence incidents and 544 sexual assaults reported in the Hunter between January and September last year.

Domestic violence rates in Newcastle, Maitland, Cessnock and Port Stephens are higher than elsewhere in NSW – a statistic all Labor candidates agreed was worrying.

Labor would also work with police across the state if elected to expand the role of domestic violence liaison officers.

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