Page 2289 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 5 August 2015

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exercises criminal jurisdiction and deals with criminal proceedings in relation to summary and indictable domestic violence offences if the person was 18 years old or over at the time of the alleged offence. It also deals with bail proceedings for adults charged with domestic violence offences and proceedings in relation to a breach of a sentence relating to domestic violence offences.

Establishing this court with its criminal jurisdiction in 2011 was a considerable change. Nevertheless, it remains a reasonable question whether this court structure needs further strengthening to include civil matters in its jurisdiction, and that is the discussion we are having today. I support looking into this and the degree to which this could strengthen the ACT’s response to family violence. It is the case that in some other Australian jurisdictions, family violence courts have a broader jurisdiction and they hear civil matters. Including civil matters would certainly expand the operation of the ACT’s domestic violence court considerably, and with that comes resource implications.

As always, it is a reasonable question to ask whether that is the best way to use those resources. As an example, the Victims of Crimes Commissioner, Mr Hinchey, made comments in the Canberra Times recently saying that breaches of domestic violence protection orders should go before the specialist domestic violence court, but initial hearings should be kept separate as the workload of the court was already too heavy. They are interesting comments, and they go to a piece on ABC Radio on the PM program last night. Members may have heard it as it was on at a time just after the Assembly had adjourned.

It talked about the fact that Victoria is currently holding a royal commission into family violence. It has heard that, in some cases, the court system is making things worse. The family violence magistrate in the Victorian Magistrates Court who works only on family violence matters says that because of overwhelming demand, she has only about five minutes for each matter. This is of great concern. To do it properly would obviously take longer. She said she has to try and pick the most important cases, especially those that appear most risky or to involve children.

This raises interesting questions in the sense that I think the intent here is right—to have a dedicated court would seem to provide good answers, but what does that look like, and is it the best approach to channel all of the matters to one magistrate, or is it appropriate, as is currently the case and as John Hinchey has suggested, that initial hearings should be kept separate? These are good questions, and I do not know the answers at the moment. I am aware that stakeholders have supported this proposition.

The Canberra Times reported on this in June with the Women’s Legal Centre, the Domestic Violence Crisis Centre and the Victims of Crime Commissioner being positive about the prospect of an improved Family Violence Court in the ACT. When those community organisations speak to it, there is no doubt that there is merit in the idea. They are at the front line and they understand the issues very quickly. But as the Victorian example I have cited touches on and as Mr Hinchey has observed in his comments, there is complexity to it.

The specific call in the motion is that the government establish a full-time domestic violence court. It is reasonable before agreeing outright to that proposition now on the

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