Federation Chamber, Parliament of Australia
Thursday 13th September, 2018
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Just imagine getting a call telling you that your mother had just been murdered - by your father.
Can you think of anything more shocking, more terrible, more life changing?
That’s what happened to a constituent of mine Amani Haydar.
Three years ago her mother was murdered by her father in her home in Bexley.
Her mother was brutally stabbed 30 times in front of Amani’s youngest sister.
Amani’s sister was injured trying to fight her father off with her bare hands.
When her mum died Amani was five months pregnant and working as a solicitor at a firm in Sydney.
Suddenly her life had been turned upside down.
In addition to the grief and the trauma of losing the person who’d brought her into this world - she now became a mother for her younger sisters.
She had to take time off work and bring them into her home. Just as she was getting ready to become a mother herself.
Why am I telling the Parliament this story?
Well it’s because of this.
When Amani went to Centrelink a few months later to lodge her Paid Parental Leave application it was rejected.
It was rejected because she didn’t meet the required work test.
The work test requires you to have worked 10 out of the last 13 months before your baby is born.
Because Amani stopped work at five months pregnant when her mum was murdered, she didn’t meet that test.
She missed it by five days.
There are exemptions built into the law to the work test - but domestic violence isn’t one of them.
There are two exemptions.
The first is a pregnancy related illness.
The second is a premature birth.
Both of those exemptions make a lot of sense.
But so does an exemption for domestic violence. So does an exemption for what happened to Amani.
At the moment if you are pregnant and you take time off work because you’ve been abused by your partner, or you’re trying to get out of an abusive relationship, or you take time off work to grieve the murder of your mother by your father, you run the real risk – like Amani did – of losing access to paid parental leave.
Given all of the evidence that pregnancy can increase the risks of domestic violence and that financial uncertainty is one of the reasons that some women are reluctant to leave an abusive relationship, I don’t think this makes sense.
That’s why today I am urging the Government to have a look at this, and to change the law to help people like Amani.
Last year Amani’s father was sentenced to 22 years in jail.
Amani now has two children – a three year old little girl and a two year old little boy.
Amani eventually got her paid parental leave after a bit of help from my office and the intervention of the former Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter. And I want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank him for that.
But she shouldn’t have had to do that. She shouldn’t have had to contact me or beg the Minister. Not with everything else that she was going through at the time.
What if she hadn’t contacted my office?
What if she hadn’t written to the Minister?
What if she just accepted what Centrelink had told her?
What if she just clicked on the paid parental leave website, read what it said and worked out she was ineligible and didn’t even put in an application?
What if she so overwhelmed by having to deal with all of the needs of her new baby and so traumatised by her mum’s death that she didn’t keep fighting like she did.
That’s why we need to change the law.
Not for Amani but for others that will follow her.
THURSDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2018
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