As part of the landmark family violence legislation passed by State Parliament earlier this year, Western Australians will soon see a change to the way some family violence restraining orders are dealt with.
The Family Violence Legislation Reform Act 2020 has already enabled the electronic tagging of serious family violence offenders and made non-fatal suffocation and strangulation a criminal offence.
In today’s State Budget, $4.7 million has been allocated over four years to the Department of Justice and $2.6 million to Legal Aid to divert contested family violence restraining order (FVRO) matters from court into a shuttle ‘special conference’, similar to the mediation process.
The process, used in the ACT, is less adversarial and stressful for the family violence victim than having their application go to court. In Perth, Fremantle and Joondalup, FVRO matters will now only be listed for a court hearing if one of the parties objects to taking part in the less formal process or no negotiated agreement is reached.
The Department of Justice will use the Budget funds to set up and run the model, and fund the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA and specialist community legal centres to provide legal advice for respondents while Legal Aid will assist the applicants.
As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:
“As well as the greater flexibility this process offers, registrars will have the capacity to refer suitable respondents to a non-mandatory behaviour awareness program.
“The program, which is being co-designed with the community sector, will seek to give respondents a greater understanding of how their behaviours are impacting their family relationships.
“Any breaches of these ‘special conference’ orders will be treated the same way as other FVROs by the justice system.”
As stated by Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk:
“This Budget allocation builds on the State Government’s significant existing commitments to protect victims of family and domestic violence.
“Victims will have access to a streamlined restraining order process through this model, which will make the process of seeking protection through the courts easier and less traumatic.
“While orders made through this model must be agreed to by both parties, it prioritises any safety concerns the victims may have.”