Page 1152 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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balancing point that these cases also need a higher level of awareness of the family interdependencies involved. They make the point that the DVOs are currently used as a device for procuring separations on favourable terms to the applicant and that magistrates in New South Wales and Queensland have said that this happens often. I must say that a few in the ACT also have said that.

The association comments that the provisions relating to mediation appear to be not much more than a token gesture and suggests that the provisions relating to mediation need significant strengthening. The letter says that the breaches do not say anything about breaches by the DVO applicant, which in some cases can be flagrant. The association mentioned to me that, whilst often there is an order that the respondent cannot contact the applicant, and for very good reasons, some applicants feel that that does not apply to them and they feel free to contact the respondent. Perhaps some steps need to be taken there. Obviously, if one party is not meant to contact the other party, the other party should not contact or attempt to contact the first party as well.

The association had a question about the provision for five years imprisonment and asked whether the provision that the final DVO hearing will not be allowed to happen in less than three weeks is to allow time for the applicant to change locks, move children, organise child support and destroy the respondent’s papers, et cetera. The letter indicates that the legislation wants to make DVOs, effectively, eternal. The provision there is still for a set period, but the association, obviously, have a concern with that. They fear that, if they go on for too long, the relationship with children might be destroyed and they feel that changed circumstances are very difficult to actually prove, which may be a problem. They fear that emergency orders will be too easy to make on flimsy grounds and self-serving allegations.

Those are some of the association’s concerns. It is a vexed area. People need protection. Victims, be they domestic violence victims or victims of other types of crime, need protection. But we do need to ensure that our legislation works well and that the legislation is not abused. That is certainly something we ask the government to look at. It is certainly something of which we are very mindful and we will be keeping a very close eye on that and doing work ourselves in relation to it.

Mr Speaker, with those comments, I indicate our support for this legislation. It is crucially important to ensure that we minimise acts of domestic violence in our community. It is a most serious crime and is deserving of most serious consideration in legislation, but we do need to keep a constant eye on just how effective that legislation is in relation to all parties involved in it.

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (11.49): Mr Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to this bill today. The Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Amendment Bill 2005 is an important piece of legislation and is the end product of an extensive review of the current domestic violence and protection orders legislation.

This bill provides a single consistent process for dealing with both domestic violence and protection orders. Domestic and gender-based violence rates remain high in our society. During the February sitting period, this Assembly recognised that by passing a motion regarding the elimination of violence against women which I had put forward. The motion highlighted the fact that in the ACT overwhelmingly the majority of victims of

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