Family violence needs greater attention

 

Yesterday the government released the summary of submissions to their consultation on family violence law reform. I was stoked to see domestic violence workplace leave in there because I have a bill that’s ready to go to deliver that. Domestic Violence leave and workplace accommodations are a simple way to support women in violent relationships to leave. It will also reduce the need for income support and increase workplace productivity.

Of course the report was about much more than this though. It addresses a wide range of issues from protection orders, the legislation, police practice, court systems and access to safety for people with disabilities to name just a few things.

The summary is a very loud call for significant reform.

Recent reforms of the justice system, like legal aid and the family court reforms, have focused on trying to save the government money rather than make sure people were safe. The response to this consultation is a clear message to rethink that approach.

Feedback shows people want a consistent system wide response to protect victims, including children. That will require more investment in police, and the courts and support agencies including more support for perpetrators to change behaviour. This cannot be done without investment.

Feedback also shows clearly that people do not believe cost should be a barrier to justice. This means the government will need to look at legal aid, at least in relation to protection, property or parenting orders with Domestic Violence concerns. It is a national shame that currently cost is a barrier to safety and justice.

Most submissions supported the need to make child safety a primary consideration and a call for parenting and protection orders to be consistent. This runs counter to the government’s previous decision to remove the ‘Bristol clause’ which prevents children from having unsupervised contact with a parent or caregiver who has been violent if there are concerns for the child’s safety. It was brought into law in 1994 after Alan Bristol killed his three daughters while they were in his custody, despite him facing charges of assaulting his wife.

A large number of submissions also highlighted the gaps in support and access for Māori and Pasifika, LGBTI, Migrant and disabled people. There was a strong call for legislation and tailored services to meet the needs of everyone in Aotearoa.

Government has been wasting time focusing on the wrong things while women and children have continued to have to try and negotiate an under-resourced fragmented and all too often ineffective system.

We commend the new Minister for this initiative and look forward to solutions that provide a comprehensive victim centered system of accountability and support.