Homicide Victims Support Group

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.

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