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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (22 September) . . Page.. 1984 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

The Labor Party endorses and accepts any steps this Assembly or any parliament or legislature can take to indicate that violence is never acceptable and never to be condoned and that we have an obligation to do what we can wherever we can to eradicate it.

MS TUCKER (11.25): Mr Speaker, the Greens are supporting the amendments being made to the domestic violence legislation. They will enhance the protection afforded to all victims of domestic violence and are in line with report No. 11 of the Community Law Reform Committee. The definition of domestic violence allows those who are victims of threatening behaviour to fall within the definition of domestic violence. Covert behaviour that results in the victim being fearful and feeling constantly threatened can be very damaging, especially when the victim feels that because there is no physical evidence to show they may not have any recourse.

The greater freedom of the court to make orders as it sees fit is a positive step in recognising the court's authority in these matters, avoiding restrictive practices and allowing it greater flexibility to deal with the individual merits of each case. The introduction of the Community Advocate to act on behalf of the protected person and vary or revoke existing orders is positive and allows for more streamlining in the court process. Another area of greater flexibility in the court process is the extension of the timeframe for the listing of an application for hearing from two days to 21. Also the duration of protection orders could be in force for longer than 10 days where this period of time would not be sufficient to contact the respondent.

The provision for compensation to a party on the basis of frivolous and vexatious claims or those not made in good faith will hopefully allow the court to concentrate on serious matters before it by projecting a view that the court does not favour those who abuse the processes. Rehabilitation is an essential part of the process. In some cases considerable counselling and analysis are required. This is a positive direction in dealing with the issue rather than just imposing a court order. It is part of a more holistic approach that has been adopted by other courts such as the Family Court for some time now.

Mr Speaker, I support strongly directed legislation that aims to protect all victims of domestic violence and is not hampered by court administration and restrictive processes. I believe that the court process is a very important part of the process, but I also see rehabilitation and counselling as essential to a recognition of the effect of domestic violence in society. Of course, many other social factors have been linked to domestic violence. Financial pressures, including unemployment, substance abuse and addictions such as gambling bear pressure on relationships and can be a precursor to incidents of domestic violence. I hope that this is kept in mind when the Assembly debates other social issues. If we do not have a coordinated holistic approach to these discussions, I think we will continue to fail.

MR RUGENDYKE (11.28): Mr Speaker, I am pleased to rise to support this Bill, which strengthens and enhances the workability of legislation regarding domestic violence. Throughout my policing career, I had many and varied experiences with domestic violence. Of all these experiences, there were never any that were easy.

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