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Family Law

Family Law in Canberra – Combatting family violence with new tactics

By September 23, 2015No Comments

The new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has claimed ‘zero tolerance’ for family violence but so far has stopped short of announcing new measures or confirming if he will reinstate the $270million in funding stripped from women’s community and legal services by former PM Tony Abbott.

Turnbull has told Australians to ‘watch this space’ on the issue, and it is hoped he will do more than his predecessor to tackle the widespread problem (Source: http://www.9news.com.au/national/2015/09/21/08/56/malcom-turnbull-says-real-men-dont-hit-women).

At the state level, promises of more funding have been made in Queensland following the spate of horrific deaths of women at the hands of ex-partners, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announcing an extra $1.2 million in funding for DV Connect, new domestic violence laws giving harsher penalties to offenders, and a specialised trial domestic violence court being established on the Gold Coast.

Meanwhile, experts have been debating the merits of various other measures to combat family violence across the nation.  One family law expert has argued that our system could emulate New Zealand’s, where victims can apply online for a domestic violence order, which is sent to the Family Court and urgently dealt with by an “E-Judge”, or electronic judge.

“E-Judges can deal with these matters at any time of day, from anywhere that has internet access,” says family lawyer Jennifer Hetherington. She also argues that streamlining the system so domestic violence orders and parenting orders can be dealt with together instead of in separate courts would also help clear the backlog of cases. (Source: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/09/16/qld-women-threatened-copycat-murders)

Of course, the orders are only as valuable as they are enforceable, as we have seen in Tara Brown’s tragic case recently. In terms of improving enforceability, it has been suggested that the enforcement of protection orders would be better undertaken by the community. The model is Samoa, where protection orders enable the community to monitor the protection order:

Beyond the usual conditions of a protection order, in Samoa they have a condition that the perpetrator isn’t allowed to go to the victim’s village and members of the community have the authority to report the perpetrator if they see them there.

Samoan lawyer Ms Betham-Annandale explains:

“In terms of the implementation, our view is that we have a community that assists greatly in the implementation and the enforcement of the protection orders. In Samoa, the family and the community are the key players in enforcing and monitoring the enforcement of the protection orders.”

(Source: http://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/news/17181-samoa-and-australia-can-learn-from-each-other)

Food for thought.  In the end, what is most urgently needed is more funding and resources to cope with the increased demand on services. Let’s hope the Prime Minister puts his money where his mouth is.

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