Proposed family violence law changes ‘a step forward’

FAMILY violence victims and support groups in Ballarat have welcomed proposed law reforms aimed at protecting and empowering those suffering at the hands of abusive partners.

The tough new reforms, introduced to state Parliament on Wednesday, include allowing interim intervention orders to become final orders without need for further court hearings and lifting bans on reporting charges and convictions for breaches of family violence intervention orders. 

One Ballarat woman said it took more than two years to obtain a final intervention order against her former partner who drugged, raped and bashed her on several occasions. 

“Something needed to change because it just wasn’t right,” the woman said. 

“To have to go back to court again and again and again and face that monster who did that to you ... you never get the chance to heal.

“If I didn’t have to go back to court all those times I’d be much further ahead in my life now.”

Another local victim, whose former partner planned her death meticulously, said the reforms were a step forward for all women. 

“For the future of other women and children, this is huge,” she said.

“I just hope other women suffering at the hands of abusive partners will not have to run for the rest of their lives, like I have.”

Attorney-General Robert Clark said victims would be spared the additional stress of facing their abuser in court. 

“At present, respondents don’t attend court in over a third of cases and a final order is made in the respondent’s absence,” he said.

“This reform will mean that where both the court and the victim consider it appropriate, a further hearing will only be required if the respondent wants to contest the order being made.”

WRISC Family Violence Support’s new executive officer, Libby Jewson, also welcomed the reforms. 

“The proposed changes announced today ... do appear to be a step in the right direction and help to bring the issue of family violence front and centre,” Ms Jewson said. 

“WRISC supports legislative change that is based on the best available evidence.”

patrick.byrne@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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