Family Violence Amendment Bill 2015 No. 28

Read into Hansard on Wednesday 16th September 2015

FAMILY VIOLENCE AMENDMENT BILL 2015 (No. 28)

Second Reading

[11.04 a.m.]

Dr GOODWIN (Pembroke – Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council – 2R) – Mr President, I move –

That the bill be now read the second time.

[3.09 p.m.]

Mr VALENTINE (Hobart) – Mr President, I thank honourable members who have already spoken.  It has been interesting listening to the different contributions.

It is interesting that we should note that this is not just about a lower socio-economic demographic.  Family violence can occur right across the spectrum, and we need to make that clear.  Having done some work on this, an ABC news item on 5 June with regard to statistics for 2013‑14 reported that Australian police deal with 657 domestic violence matters, on average, every day.  That is about one every two minutes – 239 846 per year.  Tasmania has about 11 a day.  That is about one every two hours and 11 minutes.  While we are in this Chamber, there is someone out there who is experiencing domestic violence or family violence.  That is just way, way too many.  Tasmania seems to be quite significantly down on the national average, but that does not make it any less a serious matter for this state to be dealing with, for the government to be dealing with.  Those figures were provided to the ABC by state and territory police and something to note here is that that is only what is reported, of course.

We were making light of the touching of the glasses earlier, but someone is not likely to be going to the police and talking to them about the fact that their husband or partner – I know it is not always women but 99.9 per cent of the time it is women who are the victims of this – touched the glasses.  That can send shivers down the spine of a person who has been subject to domestic violence in the past.  It is the conditioning that happens, over time.  It is the way an individual is controlled.  It is all violence in its own way, even though it might not be physical violence.  It may be the fifth, sixth or seventh time around.  It is the earlier occurrences that set it up, so that the touch of the glasses really does send a message.  We have to acknowledge that.

We need good policy responses.  That is not legislative change.  It is about education.  It is about changing the attitude of people.  Sometimes in families it is generational because the children have seen mum victimised by dad and, if they are male children, they may well grow up to think that that is the way life is, and that is what you can do to your partner.  We need to change that.

I was very pleased to see that the Government has committed $25.6 million to this, to help with regard to domestic violence.  It is their Domestic Violence Action Plan and they are putting up $8 million to establish a multi-agency unit to support victims and hold perpetrators to account.  That is good and is probably leading the nation in the way they are allocating some of this money:  $2 million for additional crisis accommodation, absolutely needed; $2.4 million to lease rental properties as supported housing; $4 million for counselling support for children and adult victims – I ask the Leader, for my own information, if she is able to let us know what avenue is being used for the delivery of that $4 million for counselling support for children and adult victims.  I would be interested to know how the Government intends to deliver that, whether it is through established agencies out there, or whether the Government is doing it.  There is $3.14 million for social workers and psychologists – again, this is getting to the educational part.  I applaud this allocation of money.  There is $1.2 million to extend legal assistance to victims.  I ask if the Leader could let us know if this is through the Legal Aid service or some other avenue?

There is $1.2 million for three additional police prosecutors; $2 million for perpetrator programs for low- to medium-risk offenders; and $685 000 for awareness programs in schools and workplaces including the Respectful Relationships program, so I am told.  I would be interested to know, of that $685 000, whether that is for specialist staff or through general curriculum development.  Perhaps the Leader could let us know.  I understand it is not particularly about the bill but if you had that information it would be interesting to know.

Recording of a Police Family Violence Order against an individual can have some ongoing consequences including access to children.  I was listening carefully to the member for Rumney in this regard.  It is fair to say natural justice is important.  Another question I direct to the Leader, if she can for the record confirm that with placing of a PFVO on an individual it is recorded on their personal record and cannot be removed unless a court deems it can be removed.  Or is it there for life?  I would like to know that.

I have had contact with a couple of different cases.  It concerns me somewhat that an individual without resources to take the matter to court, who may be innocent – I say may be, a lot of the time they will not be – has that record for good on the untested advice or will of a policeman.  That is not to say a policeman is corrupt or not doing the right thing.  It is untested.  We find someone who has this on their record has it there for life.  If they are innocent it is going to work against them when it comes to custody matters and other aspects of their life.

There can be some complications.  In conversation the other day talking about victims when they go to court, sometimes they can change their mind.  They might have gone to the police and may well have had a charge laid.  It comes to the hearing and they go to court and they are asked to witness what happened.  They want it to go away.  They realise if their partner is charged it is going to put terrible hardship on them.  Their partner may well be the only driver in the house, or they may be the breadwinner, and it is going to significantly affect their life and their family.  Sometimes they change their mind when they realise the consequence of their actions.  Perhaps the member for Rumney and the member for Windermere, if they were here, might have some experiences in that regard.

Ms Rattray – I know of an instance where the partner was reported.  The female partner who reported him had no idea they would come to lock him up and take him away.  She thought they would give him a slap on the wrist and tell him to calm down.  He was locked up for three weeks.  They had no idea of the consequences of their actions.  I suppose we have come quite a way since then.

Mr VALENTINE – Obviously the person has done the wrong thing otherwise they would not have been locked up.  Sometimes it is a little more complex.  Sometimes the victim becomes the victim again even though the court has made its judgment.  How we get over that I do not know.  I would like, if possible, for the Leader to answer a couple of those questions:

       (1)     With respect to the counselling support for children and adult victims, what avenue is being used for delivery?  That is for the $4 million.

(2)     For the $1.2 million to extend Legal Aid assistance to victims, is this through the Legal Aid service or some other avenue?

(3)     Does a person who has a PFVO placed on them have that on their record for life, even though it has not been through a court?

[4.07 p.m.]

Dr GOODWIN (Pembroke – Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council) Mr President, I thank honourable members for their contributions.  The bill is fairly modest in what it achieves.  I appreciate that honourable members have a strong interest in addressing the issue of family violence and have taken the opportunity to talk more broadly about the issue, and a number of potential reforms they might like to see occur.

With specific issues raised, I cannot answer all of your questions but I will answer a number that I am in a position to shed some light on.

The member for Hobart asked about the recording of a Police Family Violence Order on someone’s record.  A PFVO is not shown on a person’s criminal record unless it is being breached and charges have been laid.  There is a register of PFVOs held by Tasmania Police in their information systems.  Once we have the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme supported by the technical platform it will mean all orders will be recognisable across the country.  There is more work to be done there.

Mr Valentine – If a charge is laid but not found to be proven, presumably that is removed?

Dr GOODWIN – A charge is laid and not proven, yes.