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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 7 Hansard (2 August) . .

Page.. 2151..

These stories are too common. As our service system works to improve its response to people with a disability, it is important that our legal system does the same. These bills seek to ensure that people with a disability are given a voice in our legal system. People with disabilities often experience discriminatory assessments of their ability to understand or respond to legal proceedings. This can see them excluded from the benefits that the justice system can offer. Under both bills every person is presumed to have legal capacity from the age of 14.

The bills focus on the ability of parties to a proceeding to make decisions in relation to proceedings and understand the nature and effect of these decisions. This returns a fundamental right to women who are too often stripped of their agency. At the same time, the bills provide important mechanisms to ensure that people who need support in making decisions can receive adequate and appropriate assistance, including representation by Legal Aid and the appointment of litigation guardians.

These mechanisms promote equality before the law and ensure that appropriate supports are available to ensure that everyone exercises their rights and responsibilities under these bills. The government acknowledges that the amendments in these bills engage and limit the rights of family violence perpetrators. However, those limitations are proportionate and justified in the circumstances because they are the least restrictive means achievable to achieve the purpose to protect the human rights of others.

Violence will not be tolerated in our community and victims should feel supported to speak out and report acts of violence, including family violence and personal violence. These bills help the ACT work towards a culture that is safe, respectful and just for all and make particular effort to ensure that legal remedies are accessible and available to everyone, particularly those people in the community who may experience greater risks of violence. Madam Deputy Speaker, I am pleased to be part of a government that is bringing forward these amendments today.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for the Environment and Climate Change) (4.55), in reply: I would like to thank all members for their support of these two important bills that we are debating this afternoon, both of which are designed to strengthen our community's response to domestic and family violence, including sexual assault.

The reforms outlined in these two bills align with the second implementation plan of the ACT's prevention of violence against women and children strategy and support the findings of three recent reviews into ACT family violence: firstly, the Review into the System Level Responses to Family Violence in the ACT that was commissioned by the government and conducted by Mr Laurie Glanfield AM; secondly, the review of domestic and family violence deaths by the Domestic Violence Prevention Council; and, thirdly, the domestic violence service gap analysis project, which was undertaken by the Community Services Directorate.

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