The definition of family and domestic violence will be broadened to include emotional, psychological and economic abuse under new laws in the ACT.
The new legislation, introduced to the ACT Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, also aims to strengthen protections for victims of domestic, family and sexual violence, and improve access to legal responses by reforming the ACT's legal framework.
Attorney-General Simon Corbell said responses to domestic and family violence have traditionally focused on physical forms of violence.
"These important reforms emphasise non-physical forms of violence and emphasise that in the ACT, family violence is unacceptable in any form," he said.
"While gender-based violence, including domestic violence, cannot be eliminated through law reform alone, legal measures are an essential component of any response to domestic and family violence."
The new legislation also:
- amends the grounds for making a final protection order, and after-hours order, to improve access to the scheme.
- introduces provisions to prevent self-represented respondents from cross-examining applicants themselves.
- makes amendments to allow the complainant's pre-recorded evidence to be tendered as evidence-in-chief in all sexual assault matters.
- implements the scheme for national recognition of family violence orders as agreed by the Council of Australian Governments.
- introduces a preamble that speaks to the nature and features of family violence.
Mr Corbell said the legal process could be an "emotional and difficult" time for victims of family, domestic or sexual violence, and the legislation would provide additional protections for them.
"Implementation of these reforms ensures the ACT's justice response to family violence is in step with other jurisdictions and recognised best practice," he said.
The reforms implement 22 recommendations made by the Australian and New South Wales Law Reform Commissions in their report Family Violence – a National Legal Response.
The government's reforms align with the Second Implementation Plan for the ACT's Prevention Against Women and Children Strategy 2011-2017.
The Legislative Assembly also passed new laws allowing the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to hear civil dispute claims of up to $25,000 on Tuesday - increasing the current $10,000 maximum.
Mr Corbell said the amendments would allow Canberrans to obtain an inexpensive remedy for low-level civil claims under $25,000, including everyday consumer disputes, such as motor vehicle transactions, minor home renovations, and landscaping contracts.
The legislation also combines the functions of the ACAT's general president and appeal president into one role of president who will have to be a magistrate or eligible for appointment as a magistrate.
"These changes ensure the ACAT is appropriately resourced and ready to undertake its functions for many years into the future for the benefit of the ACT community," Mr Corbell said