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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (14 December) . . Page.. 3157 ..

Mr Speaker, I move that this Bill be agreed to in principle.

The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Domestic Violence Act 1986 to complement recent changes to the Commonwealth Family Law Act 1975 to deal with resolving inconsistencies between Family Court access orders, to be known as contact orders, and protection orders made under State and Territory legislation. The changes to both the Commonwealth and Territory Acts are in accordance with the agreement reached by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General on how to resolve this difficult problem.

The need for legislative reform came about because significant problems have arisen in practice when one parent is forbidden by a protection order made under State or Territory domestic violence legislation to go to, or near the matrimonial home, but an access order made under the Family Law Act states or clearly implies that the parent will, at the matrimonial home, pick-up and return a child before and after access. The resulting confusion often caused problems not only for the parties involved, but for police and others involved with enforcing such orders.

The agreement reached by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General sought to resolve inconsistencies between Family Law contact orders and family violence orders. The agreement that was finally reached nationally after much discussion and negotiation, reflects an appropriate balance between the need to protect persons from family violence, and the need to respect the right of a child to have contact on a regular basis with both of the child's parents.

The key elements of the changes to the law in this area are contained in the Family Law Reform Bill 1994. That Bill has been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament and is now awaiting Royal Assent, before commencing next year. The ACT legislation is timed to be in keeping with the Commonwealth developments.

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