Page 1124 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 28 March 2017

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The bill also makes time frame amendments in order to resolve procedural issues. The government was advised that the time frames are already restrictive under the current processes and many of the current precise deadlines for setting return dates and service of protection orders are amended by the bill to be carried out “as soon as practicably”. This amendment will afford both victims and the courts more flexibility in time, as needed, on a case-by-case basis. Courts will be able to manage responses to family and personal violence effectively and “as soon as practicably”.

As I have mentioned previously, the Family Violence Act 2016 has provisions that support the national domestic violence order scheme, which will allow orders to be recognised and enforced across the country. These provisions will commence on 1 May 2017. States and territories participating in the national domestic violence order scheme will be commencing their respective laws on the same date to ensure consistency and to support effective implementation of the scheme as well as certainty and clarity for stakeholders and the community.

The ACT is cooperating with other jurisdictions for a national commencement date in late 2017, and the amendments will allow the provisions to be commenced by ministerial notice. This is to ensure that all necessary administrative arrangements that support good operation of the scheme have been established in all the participating jurisdictions.

The bill was developed by the government in consultation with the courts, community legal centres and support services for victims of violence. We have also reached out to relevant community organisations for input on the bill and have received some feedback. The result of the feedback received is illustrated by the couple of amendments we will be proposing which will serve to further protect children and other vulnerable parties.

Having grown up in a home that was plagued by domestic violence for much of my childhood, I am personally invested in this bill. From as early as I can remember, my father would regularly hurl verbal abuse at, as well as beat, me, my mother and my four siblings. He would use belts and slippers and he would beat us both before and after school. He would often spend his pay on alcohol instead of allowing it to be spent on much-needed food. And when he was not satisfied with the dinner our mum provided, he would beat her and us if we tried to stop him.

In Tonga, where I was born, there was no practical protection from domestic violence like my family and I suffered. Culturally, the father is the sole ruler of the household, and no-one stands against him on family matters. The violence did not stop when we migrated to Australia, but after some time my mum was able to leave my father and single-handedly raise me and my siblings for the rest of our growing-up years. Even then, my father would continue to attempt to visit us. He would bang on our doors every day, screaming and swearing, which would often result in my mother having to call the police to intervene.

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