Homicide Victims' Support Group in Hansard

17th September, 2015 - Dr Hugh McDermott Mr Matt Kean (Acting Speaker) Mr Lee Evans

HOMICIDE VICTIMS SUPPORT GROUP 17th September, 2015 Page: 84

Dr HUGH McDERMOTT (Prospect) [6.05 p.m.]: I support the Homicide Victims' Support Group. Twenty-nine years ago, in the suburb of Prospect, Anita Cobby, a young nurse, had her life tragically stolen. Six years later, Ebony Simpson, a nine-year-old schoolgirl, also had her life tragically stolen. Two innocent people were lost, for no reason at all. It was when the parents of Anita Cobby and Ebony Simpson met that the Homicide Victims' Support Group was founded. They recognised the need for an organisation to assist the families and friends of homicide victims, through counselling, support and information.

They have been successful in lobbying this House for legislative reform—having transformed the role of victim impact statements in the New South Wales sentencing system and influenced the implementation of many other reforms.

The formation of the Homicide Victims' Support Group achieved the goal of providing the support that grieving families and friends desperately need. In the past, the families and friends of homicide victims expressed a feeling of powerlessness when dealing with their loss. To add to the sudden shock of grief, despair and sadness that comes with homicide, the powerlessness they felt compelled them to take action.

Furthermore, through gaining the attention of the New South Wales Government under seven Premiers, they have stood up for the rights of victims—a feat unheard of before the formation of the Homicide Victims' Support Group.

Time does not permit me to name all the services that it provides, but I would like to name a few that stand out. In 1995 the Homicide Victims' Support Group, with the support of Premier Bob Carr, were successful in establishing Ebony House, a recovery centre for people affected by the murder of a loved one. It is a place where these people can go when they feel overwhelmed by everyday life.

Ebony House is a great achievement and shows the continued relationship between the New South Wales Government and the Homicide Victims' Support Group. Since the creation of Ebony House, other houses have been established to provide support in more places around New South Wales.

Recently, its annual Ride for Justice—a fundraising bicycle ride starting at the Prospect Reservoir, where Anita Cobby was taken from us— was completed with great success. The support networks that the group fosters are phenomenal.

Regular meetings are held in various locations around New South Wales, and they assist the families and friends of homicide victims to deal with the grief they suffer. These networks can be tailored to best suit those who need them. There are specific groups for children, women and men, who all deal with grief differently.

As a member of Parliament, I have been privileged to meet with the leaders of the Homicide Victims' Support Group. Prior to entering Parliament, as a member of Rotary International I also met members of the group. I especially want to mention Martha Jabour, Robert Taylor, Mary Cusumano, Rosalie Taylor, Tim King, Chantelle Pirotta and the entire Zamitt family.

My commitment is to continue to support their great cause and to seek to gain the support of the New South Wales Government as well—no matter which party is in charge.

The Homicide Victims' Support Group is currently fundraising to build a new centre, to be called Grace's Place, named after the late Grace Lynch, the mother of Anita Cobby and founder of the group.

Grace's Place will be there to provide support in a safe place where children, teenagers and their families, grieving from the death by homicide of someone they love can share experiences, receive counselling, be involved in programs and learn life skills on how to survive the trauma of the loss of their loved one.

I look forward to working with the Government and the New South Wales Opposition in supporting the fine work of the Homicide Victims Support Group.

Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.04 p.m.]: I also acknowledge the outstanding work of the Homicide Victims Support Group, an organisation that was set up in 1993 by the parents of murder victims Anita Cobby and Ebony Simpson. The murder of Ebony Simpson had a profound impact on me because, at the time she was murdered in 1993, she was exactly my age. Out of that terrible tragedy the Homicide Victims Support Group has gone on to make a difference by supporting the lives of those who most need it at such a terrible time.

The group does incredible work and I acknowledge and thank the founders and those who continue to do that outstanding work. Their work has become vital to the criminal justice system in helping victims to negotiate the court process.

A resident in my community recently had reason to call on the support of the Homicide Victims Support Group. On behalf of that family and on behalf of the thousands of families and communities across the State and the country that have benefitted from the compassionate understanding and wonderful support of the Homicide Victims Support Group, I say thank you. It does an incredible job and we should all stand behind it every step of the way.

ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lee Evans): I thank the member for Hornsby. Ebony House is in my electorate and I know the group very well.

13th August, 2013 - Mr Mark Speakman, Mr Donald Page

HOMICIDE VICTIMS SUPPORT GROUP Page: 22099

Mr MARK SPEAKMAN (Cronulla) [12.08 p.m.]: Today I inform the House about the Remembrance Ride for Justice and Unite Against Violence Walk held on 4 August 2013 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Homicide Victims' Support Group.

The Homicide Victims' Support Group was formed in 1993 to provide support, counselling and information for families and friends affected by homicide in New South Wales. It aims to educate the general community and professional bodies about the needs of those affected, to improve communication between parties involved in assisting families and friends of homicide victims, and to promote and advocate for the interests and rights of families of homicide victims. The group includes families, friends and kin of victims of homicide.

The Homicide Victims' Support Group offers extended support by employing fully qualified trauma and bereavement counsellors to provide grief counselling at its office, at a member's home or over the phone; by providing an opportunity for grieving members to meet each other through support meetings held in the presence of trauma and bereavement counsellors; by assisting members in understanding the criminal justice system and court process; and by offering a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week support line. Currently, more than 3,300 family members receive services from the group.

The NSW Police Force directly referred 86 homicides to the group in 2012 and another four notifications came from Fiji, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the United Kingdom for family members living in New South Wales. So far in 2013 the NSW Police Force has directly referred 56 homicides to the group, with another two notifications coming from Queensland and one from New Zealand in relation to family members living in New South Wales.

On 4 August 2013 the Ride for Justice and Unite Against Violence Walk marked the twentieth anniversary of the Homicide Victims Support Group. Simon Bouda and Retired Assistant Commissioner John Laycock, APM, coordinated the ride. Registered riders included commissioners of the NSW Police Force, Fire and Rescue NSW and the Ambulance Service of NSW; the NRMA patrol cycle fleet; members of the State Crime Command; State Emergency Service assistant commissioners Mark Jenkins, Peter Dien and Michael Corboy; and Director of Public Prosecutions prosecutor Pat Barrett and his family.

Peter Simpson, founding member of the Homicide Victims' Support Group and father of Ebony Simpson, led the ride, along with Warwick and Damian Anderson, brothers of Chief Inspector Bryson Anderson. Riders met at Ebony House at Waterfall for a barbeque breakfast. Senior Sergeant Bill Green arranged the breakfast, assisted by the Lend a Hand team from Our Lady of Fatima Lourdes Church, Peakhurst. Escorted by police motorcyclists from the Traffic Support Group, the ride travelled from Ebony House to the late Senior Constable Allan McQueen memorial at Cathedral Street, Woolloomooloo, for a brief break before continuing across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Simultaneously with the Ride for Justice was a 2.5 kilometre walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, starting from Observatory Hill.

Family members of the Homicide Victims' Support Group and other community members led the walk. I and other State members of Parliament had the privilege of joining the walk. In the middle of the walk and in the middle of the Harbour Bridge the bikes—more than 100 in number—rode over the bridge past the cheering walkers. The walkers then went to Bradfield Park for a barbeque lunch organised by the Rotary Club of Wetherill Park.

Many participants in the walk wore the colours olive green and white, universally recognised colours of peace. This created a distinctive presence to highlight and make society aware of the reality that any type of violence can lead to death. Many walkers brought along a photograph of their loved one. The walk was a special event to commemorate, reflect, share and celebrate in a safe and understanding arena.

The vast majority of us will never be family members of homicide victims and so will never know or be able to fully comprehend the grief and suffering of those family members.

I commend the Homicide Victims' Support Group for its outstanding work for those family members and recognise in particular Robert Taylor, president; Mary Cusumano, vice-president; Rosalie Taylor, secretary; Tim King, treasurer; committee members Vanya King, Tom Menhennitt and Lee Williams; Ron Lockhart, honorary treasurer; John Laycock, policing consultant; and Martha Jabour, executive director. I congratulate the Homicide Victims' Support Group on its twentieth anniversary and I wish it many more years in service of the interests and rights of families of homicide victims.

Mr DONALD PAGE (Ballina—Minister for Local Government, and Minister for the North Coast) [12.13 p.m.]:

I commend the member for Cronulla for drawing the attention of the House to the Homicide Victims Support Group. We as members of the community can never really comprehend the impact of losing a loved one through homicide.

On behalf of the Government I join the member for Cronulla in expressing our appreciation of the Homicide Victims Support Group for the wonderful work it has been doing over the past 20 years.

14th August, 2013 - Mr Lee Evans

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Mr LEE EVANS (Heathcote) [7.25 p.m.]

Firstly, I acknowledge that the member for Cronulla was involved in the Ride for Justice and that he made a private member's statement on this matter yesterday.

On Sunday 4 August I was humbled to see off the riders for the Ride for Justice leaving from Garrawarra in my electorate. It was a motorbike ride from Garrawarra to the remembrance wall in the city—an event to heighten the profile of the Homicide Victims Support Group (Aust) Inc., which was formed in 1993 to provide support, counselling and information for families and friends affected by homicide in New South Wales. Walking through the group and meeting the more than 100 participants riding in this event, it became obvious that having a loved one prematurely taken from them has a lasting and devastating impact on families, friends, neighbours and even workmates.

Riders and supporters from all over Sydney congregated at the cottage set aside as a safe, nurturing place for victims to stay, grieve, participate in counselling or just talk.

When a family member or friend is murdered the emotional and physical pain of the bereaved is immense. There are no words to describe the range and depth of people's feelings and the burden can sometimes seem too much to bear.

Members of the Homicide Victims Support Group have all been affected by the murder of a loved one and are therefore able to understand the devastation and sorrow that other members may be feeling.

The Homicide Victims Support Group has been instrumental in changing numerous pieces of legislation in the past 19 years and is continuing to do so. When families come up against problems or inequities, they work with the group to change or improve things for the next victim.

Although many of the "older" families experienced feelings of powerlessness in the past, they have stood up and demanded many rights to change legislation and public perception as they fought back. This fight for reform was one of the founding objectives of the Homicide Victims Support Group.

An example of this fight for reform happened in 2004 when one of the group's young members stood up in court to deliver her victim impact statement concerning her adored grandfather's murder. The defence counsel objected and pointed out that a grandchild was not eligible to do so because they are not seen as immediate family. Why? Some children are raised by their grandparents and in many cultures grandparents are very much an integral part of the immediate family. This matter was raised, and the legislation has now been changed. The group is currently working on changes to the Mental Health Act.

The Homicide Victims Support Group employs five fully qualified trauma and bereavement counsellors to provide a professional service for its members. It offers individual grief counselling at its offices or in the home if the family members have difficulty attending the office. The group will always find a way to assist. For those living out of the Sydney area, it can arrange referral to a counsellor in their area. People can also speak with a counsellor over the phone 24 hours a day.

Attending court during a trial is often a stressful time. Support is available to help the family of victims understand the criminal justice system and court process. That support includes explanations of court procedures, etiquette and legal terms. The level of support those families receive during any proceedings will depend on their needs, and someone can be with them in court if necessary.

Before a trial begins, it can be helpful to become familiar with aspects of the courtroom, such as the layout of the courtroom, the roles of those present, and where the offender sits. If the family of victims are to be witnesses in the trial, support will be provided by the Witness Assistance Service, which is part of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Court support may be provided by one of the counsellors or a member of the Homicide Victims Support Group who has been through the process.

If anyone needs support, I recommend they contact the Homicide Victims Support Group on 1800 191 777 where someone will be available to talk to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.