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Domestic violence scheme expected to reduce threats to women

Date

Melanie Kembrey

Women who flee interstate to escape abusive partners would remain legally protected under plans to make domestic and family violence orders enforceable across the country.

New laws will be made to provide automatic nationwide recognition of court orders that try to keep victims of violence safe from further harm.

The federal government and every state and territory government have agreed to implement the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme as part of a plan to reduce violence against women and their children.

On Friday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that $3.3 million would be spent developing and testing a prototype of the scheme as a first step towards introducing nationwide legislation.

''Domestic violence orders are court orders and they should be enforceable nationwide," Mr Abbott said. "If a woman moves interstate, she shouldn't have to prove all over again that she is at risk. This has been talked about for too long and now it must happen." 

Immigrant Women's Health Service director Eman Sharobeem said the scheme was "brilliant" but she was concerned funding might be reduced before it could be fully implemented.

She said her clients frequently moved between states to hide from abusive spouses and struggled to cope with the different laws.

"I think this is a brilliant idea," she said. "It is a way of encouraging women to leave and will reduce the hassle they face because they can just take the order with them." 

The $100 million plan also includes collaborating with women from indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse communities and those with a disability to combat violence as a "national priority".

United Muslim Women Association executive officer Maha Krayem Abdo said she finally felt she was not on the periphery of discussion about domestic violence. 

"I felt that I've been given back my dignity with the recognition that Muslim women can be part of the solution not just the problem," she said.

Marrickville resident Nicole Ryan, who was in an abusive relationship for 17 years, said indigenous women were often scared to report domestic violence because they were afraid they would get in trouble. 

Ms Ryan, who now co-ordinates a music group for indigenous victims of family violence called Multi Mix Mob, said women needed continuing support from their own community. 

"I always say that my wounds have become my wisdom," she said. "Doors are opening for me that wouldn't have when I was in the relationship but I still struggle.

"I'm not at the top of the staircase yet, but one day I will be."

Funding will also be provided to develop a consistent method of gathering and interpreting data about domestic violence and to better integrate the support services already available to victims.

The second action plan announced by Mr Abbott is part of a 10-year National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children launched in 2010. 

This stage will run from 2013 to 2016 and includes 26 actions agreed by all governments.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services said the announcement of funding for a national domestic violence order added a practical development that built on earlier commitments.

One in three women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and one woman is killed in Australia every week by a current or former partner.

New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Friday also revealed that one in four Australian women have experienced emotional abuse by a partner.

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