Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 5 August 2015) . . Page.. 2288 ..
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.29): I thank Mr Hanson for bringing this motion to the Assembly. I appreciate the interest he has taken in this issue but also the interest all the members in the Assembly have taken in tackling the issue of domestic violence in the ACT. As Mr Hanson cited at the beginning of his speech in some of the figures and statistics that he highlighted, domestic violence remains a terrible problem in Australia and in the ACT, and we have all heard the scale of the issue.
We know women continue to be subject to physical and sexual violence, and the statistics are dismaying. One in three women will be subject to violence in their lifetime, and almost half of the women who experience violence by an ex-partner said that children had seen or heard the violence, suggesting that this affects around 13,000 children in the ACT. These sorts of numbers are, to some extent, incomprehensible yet they are the grim reality of what is happening in our community and warrant a strong response from the community as a whole. We as legislators have a particular role to play in that.
Family violence, as we have talked about before, comes in a variety of forms. It is of course physical abuse, but also sexual abuse and the somewhat more insidious emotional, verbal and psychological abuse. It can also take the form of social, economic and spiritual abuse. As a community we need to work hard to change and mould the underlying community values that shape the social context in which domestic and family violence occurs. We have already acknowledged that the rates of family violence are not dropping, and that it is something that is pervasive in our own community.
I fully support the tripartisan approach this Assembly has been taking to the issue in recent months. The government has clearly committed to improving efforts on tackling domestic violence. Its efforts were outlined recently in the family violence statement it made in the 2015-16 budget. This covered various measures the government has committed to through the budget, including expanding the capacity of ACT domestic and sexual violence crisis services and funding ACT public schools to provide new educational programs. ACT Policing also has a new focus on family violence, and we have heard our police chief indicate his concern at the number of callouts that relate to family violence.
In relation to establishing a full-time Family Violence Court, it is important to note that the ACT Magistrates Court has made concerted efforts on its approach to family violence in the last few years. This included a restructure which created a specialised criminal court to hear domestic violence offences. This occurred in 2011, and as Mr Hanson’s motion notes, the government also amended the Magistrates Court Act to give statutory recognition to the family violence list in the Magistrates Court. To a degree, we already have a Family Violence Court; the question is about its scope and how it might be improved.
The Family Violence Court function in the Magistrates Court allows a magistrate to sit specifically as the Family Violence Court magistrate. The Family Violence Court