The New Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012
By Matt Gill
The concept of “domestic violence” is not new, however the formulation of a system of rules governing how you can behave in a domestic relationship is. It has never been OK to be physically or emotionally abused by your spouse. However, legislators in times gone by resisted intervening in domestic abuse situations as many “voters” regarded it as an unwelcomed intrusion into your personal life.
Historically, in order to get police protection from an abusive spouse, the victim would be required to make a complaint and, if the matter proceeded as far as the Courts, give evidence against their abuser. The difficulty with that procedure was that many victims abandoned their allegations when their spouse professed their undying love for them, or even worse threatened them with further violent acts if their allegations were not withdrawn. The introduction of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act in 1989 closed that legal loophole. The Act was amended in 2012 and now more accurately reflects contemporary understandings of domestic and family violence.
The new Act catches a greater range of “relevant relationships”, including same-sex relationships and even “one night stands” where the “one night stand” produces a child. The Act expands the definition of Domestic Violence and increases the safety, protection and wellbeing of people who fear or experience domestic violence.
What is Domestic Violence?
So, what is domestic violence? Domestic violence can be abuse that is physical, sexual, emotional or economical. It also includes coercive, threatening, or controlling behaviour, or any other type of behaviour that causes a person to fear for their safety or well being.
Domestic violence only occurs within the context of a relevant relationship. A relevant relationship includes spousal relationships, family relationships (a relative), or an informal care relationship. The first two are self explanatory, but an informal care relationship exists between two persons, where one person depends on the other for help in an activity of daily living.
In non life threatening situations an “aggrieved person” (the victim) can apply for a protection order under the Act by attending the nearest Court and completing an application, detailing the allegations of domestic violence. In more serious cases where police are called to a house after a report of domestic violence, the Act requires the police to investigate the incident and provides them with the authority to detain a “respondent” (the perpetrator) for up to eight (8) hours while they complete an application for a protection order.
Where an application for protection under the Act has been granted, it affords the following protection to aggrieved persons:
- orders the respondents to be of good behaviour toward you;
- prevents further acts of domestic violence to you or your associates (family, friends etc.) by making a breach of the order a criminal offence with more severe punishment;
- prevents a respondent from attending certain premises, or places;
- provides the police and/or the Court with the power to evict a respondent from their home temporarily or until the Court proceedings are finalised; and
- any other orders as the Court see fit with the safety, protection and wellbeing of victims of Domestic Violence of paramount importance.
If you are unsure whether or not you are a victim of domestic violence you should contact our office immediately or if your situation is life threatening call 000.
The article is intended to offer simple explanations to frequently asked questions about Domestic Violence and what practical impact, if any, the new Act has on domestic relationships. It is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as same as it does not answer questions specific to your situation.