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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (28 May) . . Page.. 695 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

The Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill amends the principal legislation, which was amended last year by a Bill introduced by Ms Tucker. These amendments further refine the legislation by replacing all the grounds for obtaining a protection order in section 4 of the Act with one simple ground; that is, that the respondent engaged in conduct, in respect of the aggrieved person, which constituted domestic violence under the Act. The amendment will not only serve to enhance the protective nature of the Act but also provide greater consistency with the provisions relating to restraining orders.

A definition of "domestic violence" has been inserted in the legislation to ensure that the range of conduct covered by the legislation is clear. This enables an applicant to rely on a broader range of conduct that may not constitute a specific offence, such as threatening conduct, not otherwise included in the definition of "domestic violence offence". This particular amendment serves to enhance the integrity of the Act by extending the protection of the Act more broadly to cover conduct which is not overt or physical. This modification to the definition of "domestic violence offence" has also been replicated in the Bail Act 1992.

The Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill also amends existing legislation to broaden the scope of the restrictions and prohibitions that can be made by the court. The amendment enables the court to make such orders as it thinks fit, rather than being restricted to the finite list of prohibitions currently set out in section 9 of the Act. The integrity of the Act has also been enhanced by making the protection afforded by the Act more accessible for people who are unlikely to obtain protection without special assistance. Provision has been made in this Act and the Magistrates Court Act to enable the Community Advocate to apply for protective orders on behalf of those who are unable to represent themselves, because of either legal incapacity or mental incapacity. There are safeguards in the legislation to ensure that the Community Advocate is an appropriate person to make an application on the person's behalf in the circumstances.

In addition, provision has been made to enable persons other than those listed in the Act, that would otherwise have a right to make a civil application on behalf of an aggrieved person or child, to apply for a protection order. Such persons may include a guardian appointed under the Guardianship and Management of Property Act 1991 or any person who, in the court's opinion, is an appropriate person to make an application in the circumstances, such as a person who holds a power of attorney in relation to an aggrieved person.

A provision has also been inserted into both Acts to provide that, where the applicant is the Community Advocate, the person for whom protection is sought shall be a party to the proceedings. The benefit of having this provision is that it will enable the protected person to make an application to vary or revoke existing orders on behalf of the person where circumstances have changed.

A provision has also been inserted to enable persons who are not parties in the original proceedings, but who would have been entitled to make an application, to apply to a court for a variation or revocation of both an interim and a final protection order. This overcomes a restriction in the existing legislation that precludes persons who are not parties in the original proceedings from applying to subsequently vary or revoke a protection order.

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