The Australian Government will change the law to make it a crime to breach personal protection injunctions issued by federal family courts.

Police will have the authority to immediately charge offenders for a breach, instead of victims of family violence having to bring an application to the court.

This new offence sends a clear message that family violence is not a private matter – it is criminal.

The changes will also relieve victims from the cost of taking family law proceedings to enforce an injunction.

Offenders who breach personal protection injunctions will now face a penalty of up to two years in prison, or 120 penalty units (a fine of over $20,000), or both.

This new offence is contained in an Exposure Draft of legislative amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 the Government is releasing today. Other amendments to better protect those experiencing family violence include:

  • removing the existing 21 day time limit on the effect of interim family violence orders made by State or Territory courts where such a court has varied, revived or suspended an order. The amendment will mean that parties do not need to go back to the family law courts within 21 days, as well as avoiding inconsistencies between family law and family violence orders; and
  • enhancing the capacity of state and territory courts to handle family law matters to reduce delays in resolving matters, as well as simplifying the process and reducing the need for families to navigate across jurisdictions.

The proposed amendments address recommendations of the Family Law Council’s reports on Families with Complex Needs and the Intersection of the Family Law and Child Protection Systems, recommendations of the Victorian Family Violence Royal Commission, and the Australian Law Reform Commission report, Family Violence—a National Legal Response.

This builds on the work of COAG to establish a national domestic violence order scheme, under which domestic violence orders will be automatically recognised and enforceable in any state or territory of Australia.

The Turnbull Government is committed to ongoing improvements to the family law system and providing the best possible outcomes for families, particularly children. The proposed amendments are the next step for the Turnbull Government in responding to family violence.

The Government agrees with the Family Law Council’s recommendation that Part VII of the Family Law Act be reviewed so that matters involving at risk children can be dealt with more swiftly. The Act’s structure and other key provisions must also be considered to ensure that the Act provides a framework that is capable of supporting families into the future.

Also, the Turnbull Government will provide over $350,000 for a new training package to improve judicial officers’ awareness and understanding of family violence.

The new training package will be delivered by the National Judicial College of Australia and will provide judicial officers with specialist training about the nature and dynamics of family violence, and how these should be taken into account in matters involving family violence.

The training will complement the Commonwealth-funded National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book and will be rolled out across Australia in 2017 and 2018.

Submissions on the draft amendments can be lodged until 20 January 2017.

More information, including the Exposure Draft of legislative amendments to the Family Law Act 1975, is available at www.ag.gov.au/Consultations/Pages/Proposed-amendments-to-the-Family-Law-Act-1975-to-respond-to-family-violence.aspx