Attorney-general Simon Corbell on Tuesday introduced legislation to the ACT Legislative Assembly aimed at broadening definitions of family and domestic violence and strengthening protections for victims.
Corbell said the legislation would reform the ACT’s legal framework for protecting people from domestic, family and sexual violence, and improve access to legal redress for victims.
“Responses to domestic and family violence have traditionally focused on physical forms of violence,” he said.
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“These important reforms emphasise non-physical forms of violence and emphasise that in the ACT, family violence is unacceptable in any form.”
The new legislation:
- expands the definition of family violence to expressly include a broader range of behaviours including emotional and psychological abuse and economic abuse;
- amends the grounds for making a final order, and after-hours order, to improve access to the protection order scheme in the ACT;
- introduces provisions to prevent self-represented respondents from themselves
- makes amendments to allow the complainant’s pre-recorded evidence to be tendered as evidence-in-chief in all sexual assault matters;
- implements the scheme for national recognition of family violence orders as agreed by the Council of Australian Governments; and
- introduces a preamble that speaks to the nature and features of family violence.
The reforms implement 22 recommendations made by the Australian and New South Wales Law Reform Commissions in their report Family violence – a national legal response.
“While gender-based violence, including domestic violence, cannot be eliminated through law reform alone, legal measures are an essential component of any response to domestic and family violence,” Corbell said.
“The legal process can be an emotional and difficult time for victims of family, domestic or sexual violence, and this legislation will provide additional protections for them.
“Implementation of these reforms ensures the ACT’s justice response to family violence is in step with other jurisdictions and recognised best practice.”
The government’s reforms align with the second implementation plan for the ACT’s Prevention Against Women and Children Strategy 2011-2017.
There are several programs offering support to those experiencing domestic or family violence, including sexual assault, including:
- the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, which aims to promote the safety of people subjected to domestic violence, provide crisis intervention and address the problem of violence and abuse in relationships. (02) 6280 0900; www.dvcs.org.au/.
- Legal Aid (ACT Domestic Violence and Protection Order Unit), which provides advice on the process for applying for an order, assistance with submitting an application and representation in court. (02) 6243 3411; www.legalaidact.org.au
- Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, which provides a crisis counselling line, Indigenous community support, counselling to victims and their families, and community education programs. (02) 6247 2525; http://crcc.org.au/
- Beryl Women Inc, which provides supported crisis accommodation to women with dependent children who are escaping domestic and family violence. (02) 6230 6900; www.beryl.org.au
- Canberra Men’s Centre, which provides counselling, crisis support, outreach services, information and referral to men with complex needs, including family violence. (02) 6230 6999; www.menscentre.org.au
- Victim Support ACT, which provides counselling, court support and advocacy services to victims of crime, including family violence. 1800 822 72; http://www.victimsupport.act.gov.au