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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 28 March 2017) . . Page.. 1130 ..

Government has a key role to play in ensuring that court procedures do not unnecessarily exacerbate the traumas of family and personal violence for those affected. This bill recognises the need to introduce flexibility in court procedures to better protect vulnerable victims and to accommodate the complex emotional, family and personal safety considerations that often accompany instances of family and personal violence.

Tasmania’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Mark Morrisey, published a report in late 2016 that looked into how family violence affects young people. The commissioner stated:

Children are not mere hapless witnesses to family violence; they have their own very profound experiences.

The commissioner’s report notes that the effects of family violence on children and young people can have a detrimental effect on their development, as well as their physical and mental wellbeing. This is echoed in guidance published by the Australian Family Court on the impacts of family violence on children.

With this in mind, it is of utmost importance that our court procedures and rules of evidence in family and personal violence matters are sympathetic to the needs of children and vulnerable victims. This bill will amend the Family Violence Act and the Personal Violence Act to better achieve this.

For example, the bill will allow a person who has been affected by family or personal violence to use a recorded statement as evidence-in-chief in proceedings. The bill will also introduce new measures to limit the appearance of children in court and restrict the cross-examination of children. These important measures will relieve victims and children of the need to relive family and personal violence episodes before a court, which can be an incredibly painful and intimidating exercise.

The amendments would also allow the courts to respond to the needs of a child in circumstances where the child and their parent are both affected by family and personal violence. Where an affected child has not been included on an application for a protection order, the court may join the child in the proceedings, avoiding the need for duplicative applications. Conversely, if a child is included on the same application as their parent, the court may hear their application separately. This change will ensure that the rights of the child are protected if the parent revokes their application but the child remains in need of protection.

The bill will also amend existing legislation to better protect children and people with a disability by ensuring that their guardians are provided with relevant court documents. This will ensure the appropriate people are given the tools to help vulnerable people navigate the court system.

The bill will implement a host of other changes that will allow the courts to take a more pragmatic approach in dealing with family and personal violence matters. These include strict time limits that are currently placed on interim orders and extensions;

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