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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 28 March 2017) . . Page.. 1123 ..

Family and Personal Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2017

Debate resumed from 16 February 2017, on motion by Mr Ramsay:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (11.37): I am grateful for the opportunity to resume the debate on this important legislation, which the Canberra Liberals will be supporting. The family violence and personal violence acts were passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly with unanimous support on 2 August last year and will commence operation on 1 May this year. The Family and Personal Violence Legislation Amendment Bill, which is planned to come into effect on 13 April 2017, is intended to amend these acts prior to their commencement. Though we agree with this amendment bill in principle, we will be proposing two small but significant amendments that we believe will strengthen the bill.

The Family and Personal Violence Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 seeks to amend mainly legislation about family and personal violence. The bill amends three relevant acts—the evidence act 1991, the Family Violence Act 2016 and the Personal Violence Act 2016. The purpose of the bill is to address procedural issues and reduce red tape to facilitate streamlined family violence and personal protection order schemes. The bill provides support for automatic national recognition of family violence orders under the national domestic violence order scheme as well as registration of foreign orders, and it also brings some additional protections for children and other vulnerable parties to an order.

Notable sections of the bill include allowing the use of police interview recordings and recorded statements made by police officers as evidence when applying for a protection order under the Family Violence Act. This is an amendment that aims to prevent victims from having to give multiple retellings of the related event and thereby potentially reliving the trauma that they have experienced.

The bill also restricts circumstances in which children can give evidence in protection order proceedings. These restrictions are consistent with existing provisions in the Children and Young People Act 2008, which require the court to give leave for a child to be called to give evidence as a witness. The court will be required to take a number of considerations into account before granting leave. The court can provide further restrictions relating to the nature of the questions that may be asked in cross-examination of a child, if it is in the best interests of the child.

Additional protection for people with impaired decision-making ability is given in this bill—namely, by requiring a copy of any document served in relation to a domestic or family violence order to be given to a person’s guardian. People with impaired decision-making ability and other vulnerable parties are often at a heightened risk of domestic violence in particular. This amendment will alert a guardian to any application, to ensure they can explain the documents and provide assistance to the person with impaired decision-making ability.

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