Page 2152 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 August 2016

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The bills establish the legal framework for the protection of people from domestic, family and sexual violence and implement 22 key recommendations made in the joint report of the Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission Family violence—a national legal response. The bill also implements the scheme for national recognition of family violence orders. This is particularly important to ensure that a family violence order made in one jurisdiction is recognised and legally enforceable in another.

The bill also implements the joint report recommendations to provide a preamble in our family violence law in all states and territories. The preamble introduces important principles into our law and explains the nature, features and dynamics of family violence. It makes clear that family violence is not acceptable and that freedom from family violence is a human right and should be protected by our justice system. It also recognises the heavily gendered nature of family violence and that it can occur in all strata of our society.The bill expands the definition of family violence to expressly include a broader range of behaviours, including emotional, psychological and economic abuse. This definition covers commonly acknowledged forms of family violence and reflects well-established research into the nature of this type of violence. The responses to domestic and family violence have traditionally focused, of course, on the physical means of violence but this reform that we will vote on today highlights that non-physical forms of violence are equally unacceptable.

The bill will also build on the work currently being completed at a national level to improve Australia-wide responses to this problem. As I have indicated, it will introduce a national domestic violence order to allow for the recognition of domestic violence orders in one jurisdiction across all others. The bill introduces the model scheme laws agreed to by COAG to this end.

The Personal Violence Bill provides a scheme for personal violence and workplace violence orders similar to that available under the current Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act. Workplace protection orders and personal protection orders are important tools to protect people from violence in situations that are not family violence. The Personal Violence Bill will retain the existing legally enforceable mechanism to facilitate the safety and protection of people who fear or experience personal violence individually or in a workplace.

Finally, the Family Violence Bill includes some important changes to improve the court procedure in civil and criminal proceedings relating to this type of violence. This includes preventing a self-represented respondent from personally cross-examining an applicant for an order. This mechanism is already common practice in the criminal jurisdiction, which is why it was highlighted as an opportunity for reform in the civil sphere. This measure is supported through the ACT government’s safer families budget package by allocating funds to employ an additional registrar in the Law Courts and Tribunals Administration to cross-examine applicants on behalf of self-represented respondents.

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