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Newcastle
Thursday, January 28, 2021

Call for urgent changes to Domestic and Family Violence practices

A newly released submission is calling for urgent changes to the way local courts and police handle Domestic and Family Violence (DVF) cases in the Hunter.

The Newcastle Domestic Violence Committee (NDVC) is advocating for three key changes to current practices, including increasing the safety of victim-survivors in the Local Magistrates’ Courts; more resourcing; training and support for police dealing with DFV cases; and clearer channels of communication between the courts, police, and frontline services.

“As frontline practitioners who are familiar with seeing victim survivors fall through the cracks, we want improved channels of communication with the courts and police so that families are supported through the criminal justice system,” committee member Meighan Jenkins said.

Ms Jenkins, who has written the submission in a bid to bring about change, said there are some really eye-opening case scenarios within the 60-page document.

“Giving voice to the experiences of victim-survivors and their children is the NDVC’s priority,” she said.

“In Newcastle, victim survivors are subjected to ongoing harm as a result of unsupportive reporting and court processes.

“We urge the NSW government to look to our Victorian neighbours’ example in addressing these chronic, systemic shortcomings.”

According to the committee, the submission targets well-recognised and documented weaknesses in the judicial and police systems that continue to jeopardise the lives and wellbeing of victims in Newcastle.

It questions why NSW has been so slow to respond to the DFV crisis, comparing the state to the ground-breaking measures being implemented in Victoria and Queensland.

In Victoria, Specialist Domestic Family Violence (DFV) Courts are being rolled out, along with a model of Victim-Centric Policing that is cutting edge, embedded in research, and extending to a designated Family Violence Centre of Learning within the Victorian Police Family Violence Command.

“Newcastle courts could institute specialist DFV list processes for DFV matters, such as morning coordination meetings that review matters coming before the court that day,” Ms Jenkins said.

“This would ensure that victim survivors can have their matter dealt with as a priority, be assured they are able to safely participate, and feel supported.

“Evidentiary affidavits from frontline services could also be included in the prosecution material.

“This would enable our courts to consider contextual information when making orders to protect victim survivors and, importantly, their children.”

The submission has been sent to the Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Mark Speakman and to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott.