Domestic Violence – An ubiquitous problem in our society

Domestic or Family violence is an ubiquitous problem in our society, its perpetrators and its victims cannot be narrowed to one single social class or education or wealth. The problem is now well documented especially through such means as government advertising campaigns which attempt to raise awareness as well as sociological and psychological studies.
Frequently, marriages and de facto relationships end as a result of domestic violence. In such cases, it is necessary to act quickly to protect the victims of violence which predominantly are women and children.

There are numerous services available for victims of domestic violence such as:

* ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Service Ph: (02) 6280 0900 (24 hours)
* NSW Domestic Violence Line 1800 656 463
* Canberra Rape Crisis Centre Ph: (02) 6247 2525
* Victim Support ACT Ph: 1800 822 272 (24 hours)
* Victims of Crime Assistance League (VOCAL) Ph: (02) 6295 9600
* Lifeline Ph: 131 114 (24 hrs)
* Kids Helpline Ph: 1800 551 800 (24 hrs)

These services provide immediate, urgent assistance including accommodation if required for victims of domestic violence as well as advice regarding the steps that may be taken to obtain protection from the violent party.

In the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales there is legislation in existence which allows parties to obtain orders to protect them from the violent member of the family: in the Australia Capital Territory these are known as protection orders or domestic violence orders (DVOs), and in New South Wales as apprehended violence orders (AVOs).

Domestic violence orders are designed to provide a fast, efficient method to obtain protection from the violent partner on the basis of an interim orders obtained from a magistrate normally in the absence of the other party. The matter is normally listed for further mention some days afterwards to afford the other party the opportunity to out his/her side of the story and, if necessary, to list the matter for a final hearing.

Some critics argue that the legislature, the courts and the police have in effect decriminalized domestic violence and that it is nor normally treated for what it is, a crime.

In July 2006, the Federal Government introduced wide ranging amendements to the Family Law Act including to a large list of considerations that the court is required to take into account when deciding family law matters involving children. Interestingly, one of two “principal” considerations is whether there was domestic violence in the household. The amendments to the Act were recently introduced and there is yet no clear guidance how the Court will interpret this new principal consideration in children’s matters.

For advice in relation to any family law matters and the impacts of the new changes to the family law system contact our Family Law team in Canberra:

p: (02) 6206 1300 | e: cturini@elringtons.com.au