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Thursday, 31 August 2000
Page: 19809


Mr WILLIAMS (Attorney-General) (10:09 AM) —The member for Chifley raises two issues. It is necessary to understand that an AVO, an apprehended violence order, is not an order made in the Family Court; it is an order made in the magistrates courts, in the criminal jurisdiction in state courts. It is therefore not a matter over which the Commonwealth has any jurisdiction. The conduct of the proceedings before the state magistrates court are, therefore, matters for state or territory governments.

One frequently hears suggestions that AVOs are made on very skimpy evidence. I am not able to refer to any basic research that has been done on this subject to identify whether that is or is not the case. I recognise also that the fact that an AVO may have been made may influence the outcome of proceedings in the Family Court. However, I think it would be reasonable to say that Family Court judges, judicial registrars and registrars are well aware of whether an AVO has been made ex parte, that is by the appearance of the applicant only without an appearance by the defendant, and whether the defendant has actually contested the hearing before the magistrate in a confrontational way. It is not really a matter over which the Commonwealth can seek to exercise any jurisdiction. It would be simply a matter of trying to dictate to the Family Court how it would deal with a matter that is the subject of evidence before it. I think that is best left to the court.

In respect of the second question—the extent to which programs are available to assist with the second stage in the compliance regime—quite a wide range of programs is available through community organisations such as Centacare, Relationships Australia and the various organisations under the Family Services of Australia banner. These programs are not identical in content and they go under a variety of different names. I am unable at the moment to offer any statistics in response to the member for Chifley's question, but we do anticipate that a significant range of programs will be available through the Family Relationships Program, now basically administered by the Department of Family and Community Services. The Commonwealth does fund quite a number of organisations in quite a number of different locations. We will be closely monitoring to see whether the creation of the stage 2 process does give rise to a demand that cannot be met. I think that is the extent of the assurance I am able to offer at this juncture.