Territory Stories

Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007



Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007

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Parliamentary Record 17


Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Wednesday 17 October 2007 4848 their normal channels of support and economically depriving them is abusive behaviour that is about shaming and undermining the victims capacity to take independent action. Economic abuse will cover commonly known situations police encounter in their duties such as women who are subjected to standover tactics so that they are forced to give over money or key cards to other members of their family for alcohol, ganja or other purposes. Women who are excluded from the family home or savings when their husbands change the locks or close bank accounts will also be able to seek protection under the bill. Other examples could include clothes being burnt, hair cut off or threats of black magic that may give rise to an application and granting of a Domestic Violence Order. Another major reform in the bill is the adoption of vulnerable witness provisions in domestic violence proceedings. Under the amendment, the applicant and some witnesses may be able to give their evidence at a place outside the court or utilise a screen or partition in the courtroom to protect them from the view of the defendant whilst they are giving evidence. Victims in court are often overwhelmed by appearing in court and potentially having to deal with the intimidating stare of their partner or husband. These measures will ensure that applicants will be protected from intimidation during proceedings. In addition, in proceedings for an order where children are the applicants, their evidence will be submitted in a written or recorded statement and the child does not need to appear at the proceedings. Children also cannot be cross-examined. This is consistent with provisions in the Justices Act in proceedings for sexual offences involving children and will further encourage the use of Domestic Violence Orders. However, young people will not be precluded from cross-examination during proceedings in which they are alleged to have breached a Domestic Violence Order in place against them. Under the bill it will be an offence to publish the name of a child who appears as an applicant or witness in a proceeding, or any information likely to lead to the identification of the child, except where the name is placed in an official report of the proceedings or the court consents to the publication of the name. Likewise, where the court orders that a persons personal details be prohibited from publication, any publication of those details constitutes an offence. Another central objective of the legislation is to ensure minimal disruption to the lives of families affected by violence. There will be a new presumption when making orders in favour of an applicant with children in their care remaining in the family home. This will be achieved by the grant of a Premises Order requiring the defendant to vacate the family home in appropriate cases. This may initially appear harsh but government has made the deliberate decision that women should no longer be forced to flee the family home with their children and seek crisis accommodation elsewhere in another suburb, town or city, away from family and friends while the perpetrator remains in the home. The disadvantage experienced by women and children in such situations is often exacerbated by the cost of living and lack of steady income. Children, in particular, suffer. As routines change, the child has to cope with fitting in a new environment and new schooling. We recognise the detrimental impact this has on children and will attempt, through this bill, to minimise it. In cases where a relationship between two people has broken down altogether and there is little prospect of them living together without continuing violence, and the home is rented, the court will be able to make an order terminating the existing lease and create a new lease for the benefit of the protected person. The government recognises that this is a big policy step, so has introduced the following safeguards to prevent any abuse of this mechanism: the landlord will have the right to be heard before an order is made; the original expiry date for the terminated lease will not be extended by the order; the landlord can refuse the making of an order as long as the court is satisfied that refusal is reasonable; and the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act in respect of condition reports on the property and the return of bond monies will apply to tenancy agreements terminated as part of this process. Finally, the power to terminate a tenancy agreement will not be exercised unless the court is satisfied that the protected person can comply with the terms of the replacement tenancy agreement and, of course, consents to the order. These orders will not be made often, but they will allow victims who live in rented accommodation to remain in their home, free from further violence. In addition to the courts ability to make orders restraining the behaviour of the defendant, the bill also compels perpetrators of domestic and family violence to accept responsibility for their behaviour. This will be achieved by imposing positive obligations on them, including an obligation to undertake rehabilitation. This kind of order can only be made with the consent of the defendant and is conditional on an assessment of the availability and suitability of an appropriate program that addresses the defendants behaviour.