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Australia: Prime Minister Announces New Push for National Approach to Domestic Violence

(Feb. 9, 2015) On January 28, 2015, the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, announced the establishment of a new panel to advise the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on domestic violence laws. (Press Release, Hon. Tony Abbott MP, COAG Agenda to Address Ending Violence Against Women (Jan. 28, 2015).) Abbott called for COAG to work towards forming an agreement on a national scheme for domestic violence orders by the end of 2015. COAG will also examine the “development of national standards for measures against domestic violence perpetrators and the possibility of a national approach to online harassment.” (Pia Akerman, Tony Abbott Puts Family Violence on COAG Agenda, Rosie Batty Appointed to New Panel, THE AUSTRALIAN (Jan. 28, 2015) (by subscription).)

The announcement of these urgent priorities on the COAG agenda builds on the 12-year National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, which was developed by the federal government and state and territory governments and released in 2011. (The National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children 2010 – 2022, Department of Social Services website (last updated Jan. 12, 2015).) The Second Action Plan under the National Plan was released in June 2014 and covers the period 2013–2016. Abbott noted the five national priorities under this Action Plan, which include supporting integrated systems and improving perpetrator interventions; he stated that the current system remains fragmented and that work is needed to ensure systems across Australia provide better, more integrated support to women. (Press Release, supra.)

Currently, each Australian state and territory has domestic violence laws that include a system for making domestic violence orders that prohibit a person from coming within a set distance of the person who obtained the order. (Family Violence Orders, Family Law Courts website (last visited Feb. 5, 2015).) A national agreement would involve the state, territory, and federal governments agreeing to amend and implement their own laws so that “if a protection order is issued in one state, it will apply in all states.” (Press Release, supra.) Work towards such an approach commenced in 2014. (Id.)