Stakeholders to inform proposed domestic and family violence reforms

A reform document, published today by the Labor Government of the Territory, establishes a series of legislative and systemic proposals that aim to improve the response of the justice system to domestic and family violence (DFV).

The Review of Legislation and the Justice Response to Domestic and Family Violence in the Northern Territory: Consultative Proposals recommends measures to improve the safety of DFV victim-survivors and increase accountability for offenders.

A common feature of FDV is coercive control, although this factor is currently not adequately recognized in law enforcement or justice responses. The review recognizes this as a form of abuse and offers a range of options to improve the justice response to coercive control, even if it should be a criminal offence.

The review document also proposes other legislative and systemic reforms to modernize the DFV legislation and improve inter-institutional coordination.

Legislative reforms proposed for consultation include:

provisions to reduce misidentification of those most in need of protection; require bail officers to consider the risk of DFV; streamline consent procedures for body camera testing; introduce mandatory orders to attend DFV programs as part of a domestic violence order; and the introduction of jury instructions, and allowing expert evidence in DFV.

Systemic reforms proposed for consultation include:

a community education program on coercive control; changes to police procedures and training to incorporate a more contemporary understanding of DFV and enforcement; establishment of a specialized 24-hour DFV-related service and managed police referral of DFV victims; interagency expansion and oversight for, DFV perpetrator programs; and create a systemic DFV death review process.

Available online here here, comments on the review will inform the legislative agenda going forward, including a domestic and family violence reform bill in 2023; and the new agenda of the Office for Reform and Interinstitutional Coordination on Domestic, Family, and Sexual Violence for the coming year.

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Service providers, attorneys, DFV experts, and those with lived experience of domestic and family violence are encouraged to provide feedback. A specific stakeholder consultation will take place over the next six weeks.

The review is part of the 2018-2028 Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence (DFSV) Reduction Framework: Safe, Respected and Free from Violence and builds on previous work including consultation, research and reform in other jurisdictions.

Quotes attributable to Minister for the Prevention of Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Kate Worden:

“The Territory Labor Government is prioritizing domestic, family and sexual violence reform because too many women have been harmed and too many lives have been lost.

“The immediate damage and generational trauma caused by domestic and family violence is a shameful plague that casts a dark shadow across the Territory. It has to change.

“We know this is a mammoth task that will require all hands on deck, but we are up for the job. Our Government has already secured a record investment in the prevention of domestic and family violence and these reforms are the next step in our quest for a better and safer Territory.”

Quotes attributable to Attorney General and Minister of Justice Chansey Paech:

“Our Government recognizes the high rate of violence across the NT, and this review is an integral part of the reform process to reduce domestic and family violence.

“Inter-agency coordination is the key to improving victim-survivor safety and holding offenders accountable for their conduct, including enforcement.

“The proposals outlined in this review document are a roadmap to a modernized justice and legal system that will help reduce domestic and family violence.”

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