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Call for new family justice approach


Cite as: May 2015 89 (5) LIJ, p.14

The same judge should deal with a family’s matters each time they attend court, a new report on family violence has recommended.

The RMIT Centre for Innovative Justice report says that tackling family violence requires swift justice for victims and more help for offenders to change their behaviour. The burden for stopping violence needs to be levelled at the justice system and perpetrators, not the victims.

The centre’s director, former Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, said early interventions were key. “Until we intervene at the source of the problem, the cycle of this violence will simply roll on,” Mr Hulls said.

Other recommendations of the report, Opportunities for early intervention: bringing the perpetrators of family violence into view, include:

  • locking offenders up for 24 hours for periods of “flash incarceration” if they breach a court order;
  • connecting perpetrators with drug and alcohol and mental health services;
  • fully funding men’s behaviour change programs; and a
  • state and federal government conference to highlight best practice.

Mr Hulls said swift and certain sanctions were needed when offenders breached intervention orders.

Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant last year publicly questioned the effectiveness of intervention orders. “You can have as many as you like but I often say to people a piece of paper in the end isn’t going to protect you,” she told the ABC.

It was not enough to protect 11-year-old Luke Batty who was murdered by his father in Tyabb in February 2014. Luke’s mother Rosie Batty, who has since become an outspoken advocate against family violence and was named 2015 Australian of the Year, launched the RMIT report. She said more needed to be done to ensure perpetrators of family violence did not slip off the radar of the justice system. “These recommendations are about removing the burden from victims of family violence and placing it squarely on the system,” Ms Batty said.
The RMIT report was launched in the same week Victoria Police released crime figures showing police recorded more than 68,000 family violence incidents in 2014, up more than 8 per cent on the year before.

Minister for Police Wade Noonan said more people were coming forward to report family violence, revealing the true scale of the problem. “In 2014, police attended a family violence incident every eight minutes,” Mr Noonan said. “These figures show that family violence is the biggest law and order challenge facing Victoria.”


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