National Domestic Violence Order Scheme Bill 2016
I am pleased to speak briefly on this matter, and I know many members have wanted to do so because it is a very important part of the reform of family violence that has been going on for a very long time.
I have been practising family law for many years, and I have watched the development of this area of law, and certainly it has been very troubling, starting out with family violence orders — or intervention orders as we know them in Victoria — involving so many technicalities and being so difficult to obtain.
But times changed gradually.
Police were put into positions within police stations where they were dedicated to looking after victims of family violence and bringing applications for them, and that was a very welcome situation.
Now we have police stations such as Shepparton where a number of police officers are dedicated to dealing with family violence issues.
On that note I point out, regretfully, that Shepparton is ranked as having the third highest number of family violence incidents in the eastern region, and it is eighth in the state, so it is a problem we face in our local community. The Royal Commission into Family Violence has been welcome, and many proposals within the recommendations will lead to a streamlining of the court processes around the obtaining of family violence orders. This piece of national legislation is important because the need to manually register an intervention order has always been an issue — finding the right copy to take down to the court or having a certified copy to send in. This will now mean that the order is registered in one place and effectively covers the whole of the country.
It also means that if you want to vary or extend or change an intervention order in some way, you can do it in the place in which you are living. The jurisdictional limits or requirements that have previously existed will not create that impediment. You will not have to go back to Wagga if you live in Shepparton; you will not have to do any of that. You will be able to go to your local court in the place where you now live, your intervention order will be registered in that place and you can seek to have the proceedings dealt with locally where you live. Those sorts of things make a huge difference to the people seeking those sorts of orders.
The legislation also provides for weapons and firearms to be treated in a similar way across the country. Where there is a disqualification, say, in New South Wales, the same disqualification will apply in Victoria, so should a perpetrator travel to the same town such as Shepparton that the victim has relocated to, the intervention order will apply and so will all of the terms and conditions that are on it. The other thing that is really beneficial is that the prosecution of a breach of an intervention order will be able to take place in the place where, again, the victim is. It will mean a more prompt and easy disposal of a perpetrator in circumstances where a breach has taken place.
The bill contains many detailed amendments, and they are appreciated because on a day-to-day basis they are all really important, because there are so many things that throw up hurdles for applicants of family violence orders. Some of them relate to the Family Law Act 1975. One of the things that commonly arises is that an applicant will be concerned about property she has had to leave at her home or will be concerned about her animals. It has been a common statement from the bench that that is a family law matter and it cannot be dealt with. I believe that will remain a problem because at this stage we have not dealt with the Family Law Act and those connections that sometimes apply in these sorts of situations. I believe the royal commission has made recommendations around those things, and further changes will be required in the future.
The technology around the bill will be important to ensure that the systems are in place and that registration is there, is broad ranging and is instant so that people will know that they can make a report to the police and it will be picked up straightaway even if the intervention order is in another jurisdiction. Given the time limitations, I will finish by saying that I support the bill.