National Domestic Violence Order Scheme

Karina Ralston, Madison Kelly

Victims of domestic violence will now find it easier to protect themselves across State borders, thanks to the new and improved National Domestic Violence Order Scheme which came into effect on 25 November, 2017. Coinciding with International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and White Ribbon Day, the Scheme makes new domestic violence orders automatically enforceable in every State and Territory.

The NSW-led movement for the creation of a national database that is available to all police and court agencies ensures that domestic violence orders will still carry legal force, even when victims move interstate. All other States and Territories followed suit, creating a streamlined national Scheme aimed at protecting victims all around Australia.

Under the new Scheme police will be able to prosecute offenders for breaches of domestic violence orders, regardless of where they were originally issued. This is of great comfort for victims pursuing a new life interstate, as they will no longer lose their legal protection when relocating. Prior to the Scheme, if victims relocated they would have to apply for a new domestic violence order in their new State or Territory. Pru Goward, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, praised the scheme, stating that “victims will only have to go through the process once...if and when they relocate."

Of course this raises the question about those orders that were already in place prior to the Scheme. Whilst the new Scheme can’t operate retrospectively, the process has been simplified - victims can apply to a local court in any State or Territory to have their orders recognised under the new Scheme, instead of pursing a new application altogether.

The NSW State Government has stated that it aims to process these applications within two days, enabling victims to safely move interstate without a delay in their legal protection. The Scheme goes even further to protect these victims as perpetrators will not be informed that orders have been registered elsewhere without the victim’s consent. This is fundamentally important because victims choosing to move interstate are likely doing so to move away from their abusers.

The Scheme also allows for the enforcement of New Zealand violence orders. This will not happen automatically but by way of application to a local court, as mentioned above. However, it is not clear whether this is intended to operate vice versa, so those planning to relocate to New Zealand should be mindful if they wish to carry their legal protection with them.

The NSW State Government is planning to market the new Scheme through outreach services, the police, the court system and in media advertisements to ensure that those who require this protection are aware of the Scheme and can access its benefits. 

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