The Victorian Government has allocated $572 million of its 2016-17 state budget as a first step towards addressing family violence, vowing to implement all 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence handed down earlier this year.
On 25 November 2016, the Victorian Government released a 10-year plan detailing how these reforms would be implemented. The plan is a long-term investment, which targets key problem areas in an effort to improve the effectiveness of an “overwhelmed” family violence system.
The plan empowers Victorian courts to make interim family violence intervention orders on their own motion at any point during criminal processes, including bail proceedings and sentencing. It also commits to improve victim survivors’ experience of the court system and reduce unnecessary repeat attendances at court.
According to the Victorian Government, the effect of streamlining the hearing of family violence matters will not become apparent for at least five years, as the Royal Commission’s recommendation that all family violence matters will be heard and determined in specialist family violence courts is dependent on a number of other recommendations.
The Government is also proposing to amend the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) so that if a person applying for a family violence intervention order has a child who has experienced family violence, their child should be included in that order or be protected by their own order. This will bring Victoria's family violence legislation into line with Commonwealth legislation, which requires a court to make a child's best interests the paramount consideration when making orders.
Special Counsel Rachell Davey said that, “Having an accessible and responsive system which holds perpetrators to account and encourages victims to feel safe about reporting abuse sends a strong message that family violence and gender inequality will not be tolerated.
“The Victorian' Government's commitment to permitting victim survivors to give evidence from a place other than the courtroom is particularly important. All measures that strive to reduce the interactions between victims who have experienced the physical, mental and emotional trauma of family violence, and the adversarial court system can only be for the benefit of victims and their children in turn."