As a way to counteract the prolonged issue of domestic violence, a variety of legal and non-legal measures have been implemented within Australia in order to protect victims of domestic violence. With domestic violence on the rise in recent times, such responses allow the decrease of instances of domestic violence and achieve justice for victims and the community, whether it be between spouses or children. The Australian legal system has strived to implement measures to protect victims through AVO’s and family court injunctions. Similarly, non-legal responses including, non-government organisations and the media have attempted to advocate awareness of the issue, while also providing victims with support. Ultimately, in regards to the issue of protecting victims of domestic violence, both legal and non-legal responses have significantly decreased the occurrence of domestic violence cases in Australia, with varying degrees of effectiveness.
Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO) have proven to be relatively effective as a means of protection for victims and reducing any further instances of domestic violence. AVOs require the subject of the order to adhere to certain conditions and have clear benefits for the applicant, the victim. They are relatively easy to obtain, address a range of behaviours beyond physical violence, look beyond incidents to the pattern of behaviour, and can be “tailor-made” to fit the needs of the victim. The effectiveness of AVO’s are supported by the SMH Article “Violence against women reduced through apprehended violence orders, survey shows” (January 2015) which states, “An overwhelming majority of women who take out apprehended violence orders believe they are effective in deterring violent partners”. Additionally, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research Study (2015) which showed 98 per cent of women who experienced physical violence, no longer did after taking out an AVO. Despite this however, the effectiveness of AVO’s are still questioned, with many believing it can lead to increased violence due to resentment. An ADVO is not documented on an individual’s criminal record and is not a criminal offence until it is breached, making it somewhat ineffective in achieving justice for individuals. The lack of enforceability is apparent through the case of Sarah Brown (2017), Brown was stabbed by her estranged boyfriend despite the measures of a AVO. Hence, this highlights an instance when an individual’s rights were not protected, and justice was not achieved, since the order was insufficient in preventing the attack from occurring. Overall, although there are benefits of an AVO, the lack of enforceability undermines the protection of domestic violence victims and thus can only be deemed relatively effective.
Under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and Property (Relationships) Act 1984 (NSW), a victim of domestic violence can seek various other legal orders, similar to ADVOs, such as injunctions and family violence and parenting orders. An injunction is a court order which either prevents someone from doing something or orders someone to do something. A Family Court Injunction can be obtained through the Family Court, which operates in much the same way as an ADVO. Although injunctions issued by the Family Court are restrictive upon the offenders, they are more difficult than ADVOs to enforce and are not immediately available to victims, as are ADVOs. As stated by NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics director Don Weatherburn, “There are breaches but what would the world look like if we don’t have these orders. The answer is a lot worse.” Additionally, there has been an uproar concerning the effectiveness of parenting orders in regards to the safety and protection of children. SMH article (Feb 2016) “‘Overwhelmed’ family courts are falling short on domestic violence, says Children’s Commissioner” reports “There was evidence that courts had placed children in homes where they were at risk of being abused or exposed to violence”. These instances demonstrate the ineffectiveness of such legal orders to protect victims of domestic violence, as in most cases a lack of enforceability and resource efficiency is prevalent.
The media within NSW is given a widespread platform to account for any issues in regards to domestic violence by raising awareness, however only to a small extent and thus ineffective in terms of protecting victims. Publicity awarded to particular issues that concern the whole population, like domestic violence, have the potential to pressure governments to review and reform the law. Despite this, the media fails however to show the consequences of domestic violence, in order to prevent family violence and protect victims. It does not portray equality as it is a very biased form of broadcasting domestic violence, as ultimately the media is made for the interest of the public and built upon a foundation of marketing and advertising. ABC Article (2015) “Domestic violence and the media: maintaining the veil of silence and secrecy”, shows the ineffectiveness of media as many cases that come through are domestic assaults, but they are not actually being bought to the attention of the community by being publicised: “A triple murder would get the public’s attention…the domestic assaults were never going to make it into print.” Hence, although the media attempts to recognise the issue of domestic violence and is relectively effective in raising awareness but does not play the most significant role in protecting them.
Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), including the ‘Luke Batty Foundation’, are relatively effective non-legal responses to domestic violence. These foundations are an effective means of providing support and assistance for victims of domestic violence whilst whlist also advocating for changes in the legal system to further prevent instances of family violence. Rosy Batty established the Luke Batty foundation in 2014, following the murder of Luke Batty, her son, at the hands of his father. On 12 February 2014, Greg Anderson, murdered eleven year old Luke on a sports oval in the outer Melbourne suburb of Tyabb. Anderson managed to isolate Luke inside a cricket net where he struck his son on the head and stabbed him to death. The murder of Luke Batty not only gained significant media attention but provided support for other victims of domestic abuse through the creation of the Luke Batty Foundation. The foundation ensures victims have access to resources and assistance, providing families with closure whilst aiming to create a society free of family violence. Furthermore, the foundation has campaigned for the five-step plan to create a family law system which focuses more on the children and their welfare. A particular focus was to stop the ability of perpetrators to cross-examine victims in the family court: it not only causes further trauma but potentially impedes evidence and leads to bad decisions that put children at risk. As a result of this campaign, the Commonwealth released a public consultation paper and Exposure Draft Bill in relation to proposed amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 that would in part respond to family violence. Therefore, the non-legal measure of NGO’s are highly effective dealing with domestic violence due to the provision of resources to assist victims, and advocating for law reform and awareness.