ACT News

ACT to 'watch' as NSW Coalition promises domestic violence disclosure

The ACT government says it will "watch" interstate action on domestic violence as the NSW Coalition makes an election pledge to set up a disclosure scheme warning people if their partner is a perpetrator.

On Friday NSW Premier Mike Baird announced the pilot scheme which would allow women to ask police whether their partner was a previous domestic violence offender.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell will watch the efforts of other states on domestic violence
Attorney-General Simon Corbell will watch the efforts of other states on domestic violence Photo: Jay Cronan

A ministerial portfolio for preventing domestic violence and sexual assault would also be set up for the first time in Australia's history if the NSW Coalition was re-elected, he said.

Debate about domestic violence in the ACT has continued since mother-of-three Tara Costigan, 28, died, allegedly killed by her former partner, Marcus Rappel, 40, in Calwell last weekend. 

ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey has called for urgent action on domestic violence
ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey has called for urgent action on domestic violence Photo: Graham Tidy

Rappel's last girlfriend had taken out a domestic violence order against him after they broke up in 2013, which he breached.

The NSW Coalition's proposal is based on Clare's Law, the domestic violence disclosure scheme in Britain,  which allows the release of police check information in certain situations. 

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the territory had not considered such a scheme in the past. 

But he said he would keep an "active watch" on how other jurisdictions were tackling domestic violence.

Meanwhile, the ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey on Friday called for urgent action to reverse the growing number of domestic violence homicides in Australia, something that has bucked the downward overall homicide rate.

Mr Hinchey, speaking at an International Women's Day event in Civic, urged against federal funding cuts for the ACT Women's Legal Centre and ACT Legal Aid Commission, which were  vital in helping vulnerable women.

"Case workers at Victim Support ACT are fielding calls from women who are frustrated and afraid because they   cannot get the help they need now – today – to protect themselves," he said.

"Both these organisations are major sources of support and advice for women seeking protection from domestic violence in the ACT. "

He also spoke of the dangers of federal cuts to interpretation services for those applying for domestic violence orders in the ACT's courts.

The ACT Magistrates Court, he said, did not have specific funding for translation for non-English speakers in civil proceedings.

"There should be no communication impediment to a person commencing proceedings for a domestic violence prevention order or for pursuing a hearing for a victims' of crime financial assistance scheme application," Mr Hinchey said.

"Apart from the human rights considerations, this access to justice issue needs to be resolved urgently."

He also called for a stronger national response to domestic violence, and a renewed focus on the recommendations made in the Australian and NSW Law Reform Commission's family violence report, published in 2010. 

Mr Hinchey said the ACT had made a considerable effort to consult on the recommendations of the report since its release.

"All jurisdictions should make it a priority to implement these recommendations and to report publicly on progress against them," he said.

He also voiced support for the national summit on domestic violence proposed by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten earlier this week.