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Victoria unveils laws to stop financial abuse -

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Victoria unveils laws to stop financial abuse

The World Today - Wednesday, 25 June , 2008 12:40:00

Reporter: Samantha Donovan

TANYA NOLAN: Refusing your partner the right to be financially independent could soon attract the
attention of police in Victoria.

The state government says it's called financial abuse and calls it an insidious form of domestic
violence that often goes unchecked.

Unveiling new laws, the Government says financial abuse could be grounds for an intervention order.

The change is being welcomed by a former chief justice of the Family Court and anti-domestic
violence campaigners.

Samantha Donovan reports.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Intervention orders are usually granted where a woman or man fears violence from
a partner. But on the advice of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, the State Government has
decided the grounds for an intervention order need to be expanded.

A person who is having their living expenses withheld by a partner or being denied the opportunity
to go out and earn their own money will now be able to apply for the protection in Victoria.

The CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, Fiona McCormack is pleased with the change.

FIONA MCCORMACK: I think that broadening the definition of family violence within the bill provides
a more accurate description of the sorts of behaviours that women can experience when in a violent

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: What is a typical situation where you think an intervention order may be useful
on financial grounds?

FIONA MCCORMACK: We heard of a woman recently where, who was in late stages of pregnancy and quite
ill at home and her partner would go and buy food for himself and cook for himself and would not
provide any food for her and she had no finances of her own to go and buy food for herself.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The former chief justice of the Family Court, Alastair Nicholson says the change
is overdue.

And he'd like to see all Australian states reform their laws to tackle a problem he says is too

ALASTAIR NICHOLSON: It is very much part of the sort of an atmosphere of control that some people
try and set up in a family situation. So it has manifest itself often in trying to deny the other
partner friends and trying to deny them freedom of movement and one of the ways you can do that is
economically making it difficult for them to do anything such as shopping or those sort of things.
Take away their credit cards.

It is that sort of pattern of conduct that's particularly, it is a particularly offence pattern of
conduct and you do see it often enough to make this sort of legislation I think worthwhile.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: It seems to be a little understood situation by those who haven't been in that
sort of environment?

ALASTAIR NICHOLSON: I think that is right. I think that is true. I think the Government, even if it
is not widely used as a matter of application, I think the fact of its presence has some merit. But
for example it could be used by a, it is usually a woman in this situation, who for example may
eventually find themselves in a shelter and wanting to make an application to get the other party
removed from the house or something like that.

And it provides, you don't have to necessarily prove that you've been bashed. You can prove that
you have been treated in other ways that have the same effect.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Do you think it is going to be difficult for courts to assess though whether an
order is warranted on this ground?

ALASTAIR NICHOLSON: I don't think so. I mean it depends; it is a question of what they accept. If
they accept the evidence, well they can make an order. It is the same as any other ground really.
It is question of what they are told and what they regard and what they regard as believable.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Tasmania is the only other state to have made economic abuse a ground for an
intervention order. Its law has been on the books since 2005, but criminal lawyer Kim Baumeler says
to her knowledge no-one has applied for an intervention order on that ground as yet.

And she the doesn't a think a lack of awareness explains why the new law hasn't been used.

KIM BAUMELER: In Tasmania the main applicants or the people who are actually filling out the forms,
the police officers who are well aware of what the sections are available to them, so I think it is
the scenarios that are being given to the officers who are filling out the applications that just
don't warrant economic abuse being raised.

TANYA NOLAN: Tasmanian lawyer Kim Baumeler with Samantha Donovan.