Speaking out for victims of domestic violence

As members of the legal profession, many of us are confronted with difficult cases and dire circumstances on a regular basis. Too often we are reminded of the real, lasting and often tragic consequences of violence against women and children. The statistics are horrendous. On average, one woman is hospitalised every three hours in Australia as the result of violence. One woman is murdered every single week by a partner or former partner.

Last week, I was shocked to learn that as of October 30 this year, 58 women have been violently killed in Australia – 11 of those in the past four weeks.  Violence against women and children has reached epidemic proportions.

Only last month, the Law Society wrote to the NSW Government expressing our concerns about the planned redesign of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS). We believe that the goal of preventing domestic violence and keeping victims safe would be better served through directing resources to outreach, awareness and the provision of specialist services that are appropriate to the needs of specific groups, rather than continuing the DVDS. We noted the lack of evidence that such schemes are effective in reducing the incidence of domestic and family violence, strengthening protections and support for persons at risk or improving perpetrator accountability. Our view is also supported by the Queensland Law Reform Commission. In July we also called on the NSW Government to consider implementing domestic violence pre-sentence intervention programs but we are yet to receive a response on this matter.

The chronic backlog of cases and delays in our state’s court system have also affected victims of domestic violence and their families, leading to greater stress and hardship. Last Monday, the NSW Government announced a $150 million injection of funds for the District Courts to reduce these backlogs and court delays. We welcome this news and congratulate the NSW Government for this significant funding boost.

However, we will continue to advocate for more resources and services that help prevent violence against women and children. More needs to be done to prevent this insidious crime and keep victims safe. It’s time to put this issue back on the nation’s radar.

Anyone experiencing domestic and family violence can get help 24/7 by calling 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732. For crisis support contact Lifeline 13 11 14.

Doug Humphreys
Law Society President 2018
Twitter:  @LSNSW_President