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New family violence bill to make giving evidence easier for children

Children would no longer be able to be served with court documents at school, under legislation introduced into the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.

Amendments to the Family and Personal Violence Legislation would also allow victims of crime allowed to use their own recorded statements as evidence in support of a domestic violence protection order.

"These amendments will create a better protection and justice system for children, people with disabilities and victims of domestic and family violence," Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay told the assembly.

The changes would also mean the circumstances in which children can give evidence in protection order proceedings restricted.

The court would be required to give leave for a child to give evidence and consider the effect being on the stand would have on them or their relationship with a family member. 

The changes would also require documents related to domestic or family violence orders to be served on the guardians of disabled people.

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"It is sadly the case that people with disabilities and particularly with impaired decision-making abilities are at an elevated risk of being victims of domestic violence," Mr Ramsay said. 

"This means that a guardian will be made aware of any application to ensure they can explain the documents and provide assistance to the person with impaired decision making ability."

Mr Ramsay said this was an "urgent area of law reform", driven by listening to the courts and victims groups.

"We are not only listening, we are taking action," Mr Ramsay said.

"This bill will make some of most vulnerable people in our city safer." 

The bill will be debated when the ACT parliament next sits.

Clarification:  An earlier version of this article said the bill would see national domestic violence and protection orders automatically recognised in the ACT from May 1 as part of a national scheme. The national scheme only captures domestic violence orders not protection orders. The bill also defers the commencement of the national recognition provisions to a date to be fixed by Ministerial Notice.