Natalie Hutchins has been sworn in as Victoria’s Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family Violence, in a step she believes she has spent much of her career preparing for.
One of Ms Hutchins’ first acts upon becoming a Victorian MP seven years ago was to commission a report into family violence in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs, where she is based.
In her research she sat for two days in the Sunshine Magistrates Court and observed scores of domestic violence cases.
“It made me realise that it is a jigsaw puzzle of reasons as to why we have such high levels of family violence in various pockets across Victoria,” Ms Hutchins said on Wednesday.
“That comes down to respect issues in our community … and the unequal circumstances that many women face, who have not had the economic security to be able to flee a situation,” she said.
It is because women are often trapped in violent relationships that Ms Hutchins nominated the Andrews government’s promised rollout of 17 safety hubs for women and children, at a cost of $448 million, as one of her most urgent tasks.
She replaces Fiona Richardson, who was Australia’s first minister for the prevention of family violence, after Ms Richardson’s sudden death from cancer last month.
The two women sat side by side on the government’s front bench.
“Fiona and I had many long late-night conversations in the Parliament about these issues,” she said.
“One thing I’ve learnt from Fiona is to always stand up for what you believe in … I could only hope to fill her shoes.”
Marlene Kairouz replaces Ms Hutchins as Minister for Local Government and was also sworn in on Wednesday.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy wished Ms Hutchins well in the role but described the reshuffle as “much ado about nothing”.
However, Mr Guy said he might consider refreshing his own team before the next state election in November next year.
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