Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 3 May 2022) . . Page.. 1079 ..
Community Safety, tabled out of session on 14 April 2022. The Family Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 introduces amendments to introduce higher maximum penalties for certain offences when committed in the context of family violence and makes procedural changes to improve access to justice for victim-survivors.
Family violence issues are serious and complex and there must be an effective response to deter and respond to offences, as well as improved access to justice for victim-survivors. The report recommends that the Assembly pass the bill with recommendations, including that the ACT government review aspects of longer sentences and update the Assembly in two years after the commencement of the act.
On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this inquiry. I thank the other committee members, Deputy Chair Dr Paterson and member Mr Braddock, for their cooperation and conduct. I commend this report to the Assembly.
DR PATERSON (Murrumbidgee) (11.57): I wish to talk very briefly on this bill, specifically about two key matters, the first being the change of name for the offence of “a sexual relationship with a child or young person under special care” to “a persistent sexual abuse of a child or young person under special care”. I also want to make a few points about the aggravated offence scheme and the introduction of higher maximum penalties for certain offences.
The Family Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 will bring about significant reform for an important issue affecting too many Canberrans, and one which many victim-survivors find it incredibly difficult to report on. Too often, the criminal justice system compounds the trauma of victim-survivors of domestic and family violence. We need to continually reduce the barriers for victim-survivors to come forward, to enable them to report the violence, and to provide appropriate support mechanisms and hold perpetrators to account.
I wish to acknowledge and thank the 2021 Australian of the Year, Ms Grace Tame, and the work of the Grace Tame Foundation. It is in large part due to Ms Tame’s continued advocacy, and that of her foundation, that the amendment is being made, through this bill, to change the name of the offence.
The term “relationship” implies consent and diminishes the real nature of the offence: the sexual grooming and assault of a young person, often vulnerable and impressionable. I wish to thank the Attorney-General for listening and taking heed of Ms Tame’s call in November last year for this reform. The speed with which it has occurred speaks volumes about the importance of this bill.
The second point I want to touch upon that came through the inquiry was that the bill introduces an aggravated offence scheme to introduce higher maximum penalties for certain offences relating to family and domestic violence. The introduction of higher maximum penalties recognises the serious long-term impacts of family and domestic violence, and the trauma caused to victim-survivors.