Domestic Violence in Queensland is a sad and tragic reality. The State Government’s Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Strategy reveals that “In 2014-15, 29 homicides relating to domestic and family violence occurred in Queensland”[i]. The Prevention Strategy also quotes the Queensland Child Death Case Review Committee report for 2013-14 as identifying domestic and family violence as factor in 71% of cases concerning the death of a child[ii].
In the last few weeks Queenslanders have been shocked by news that in separate incidents two women and a six year old girl were murdered and another woman barely survived a machete attack, all allegedly at the hands of domestic partners.
Countless more victims suffer in silence.
In the 2013-14 financial year, domestic violence applications increased by 6.23% over the previous financial year with a total of 25,276 applications lodged state wide[iii], with Southport Magistrates Court handling the largest volume of these, at 9.4% of the total[iv].
In late 2014, at the request of the then Premier Campbell Newman and with bipartisan support, former Governor-General Dame Quentin Bryce took on the important and challenging task of heading up a special taskforce, to tackle Queensland’s growing problem with domestic and family violence.
On the 28th of February 2015, Dame Quentin presented the Taskforce’s findings to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at Parliament House, in a landmark report called Not Now, Not Ever[v]. In August 2015, the Premier announced the Queensland Government would implement all 140 recommendations in the Taskforce Report.
In accordance with those recommendations, from 1 September 2015, the Southport Magistrates Court began trialling the state’s first dedicated Domestic Violence Court.
The government has also allocated $1.1 million for domestic violence duty lawyer services across 14 locations state-wide, providing invaluable assistance to victims of domestic violence who might otherwise struggle with access to justice.
Also in September 2015, the Queensland Government announced a new Criminal Law (Domestic Violence) Bill[vi], which is aimed at fast tracking reforms to increase perpetrator accountability and enhance community protection against domestic violence in response to the accepted recommendations of Dame Quentin’s report[vii], summarised as:-
- an increase in maximum penalties for breaches of domestic violence orders;
- ensuring that convictions for domestic violence offences can be specifically recorded on a person’s criminal history; and
- amending current legislation to give protections available to special witnesses to victims of domestic violence[viii].
A new independent body, the Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Unit is soon to be established to review, at a systemic level, domestic and family violence related deaths[ix], which implements a further specific recommendation in Dame Quentin’s Taskforce Report. Further measures taken by the government in its stand against domestic violence were announced in a press release on the 13th of September and include:-
- priority attention for anyone who attends the front counter of a police station on domestic violence issues;
- the need for police supervisors to conduct mandatory quality checks on all over-the-counter requests for domestic violence orders; and
- the urgent rollout of 300 body-worn cameras for police on the Gold Coast to assist in gathering evidence[x].
In that press release the Premier also announced that the government would “provide funding to bringing together service providers and agencies to develop a model for a full integrated response to domestic violence – essentially, a “one stop shop” for support services. … this means that the many links in the chain - police, hospitals, domestic violence services, corrections staff – everyone with a role to play in keeping a victim safe, and holding the perpetrator to account, are working to the same agreed approach.[xi]”
Now is the time for action. Let’s all help to end the violence. If you are concerned that a friend or loved one is a victim of domestic violence, don’t turn a blind eye – speak up and be heard.