Women’s safety advocates have welcomed the most comprehensive family violence law reform package ever seen in Western Australia announced by the McGowan government on Wednesday.
The reform package included the introduction of non-fatal strangulation and persistent family violence as new offences under the Criminal Code, as well as the requirement for police to record every incident of family violence.
New aggravated penalties for offences that commonly occurred in circumstances of family violence, introduction of serial family violence offender declarations and jury directions to counter stereotypes, myths and misconceptions about family and domestic violence were also included in the reforms.
"We have been lobbying and providing training on the issue of non-fatal strangulation for a number of years and are very pleased the WA Government is making standalone legislation that recognises this highly dangerous form of DFV, and its serious nature," said Angela Hartwig, chief executive of the Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services in WA.
"These changes send a clear message to the WA community that DFV will not be tolerated and will be met with the full force of the law, keep women and children safe and hold perpetrators to account."
Ms Hartwig said the changes made it easier for victims to separate from their abusive partners.
"Requiring WA Police to record every reported DFV incident will ensure victims can establish a history of violence and abuse that will be available to them when they are ready to separate," she said.
WA Attorney General John Quigley said family and domestic violence was an epidemic, with 1.6 million women (or one in six women) across Australia having experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or previous partner, according to the The Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing.
“Nationwide, a woman dies as a direct result of family violence every nine days,” Mr Quigley said.
“Our family relationships and homes should be our safe places, free from psychological and physical violence and abuse.
“Domestic and family violence victims make up 61 per cent of assault victims in WA and at least 30 per cent of all matters in the Magistrates Court involve family violence.”
Domestic Violence Prevention Minister Simone McGurk said the uncomfortable truth was women were much more likely than men to experience these "insidious crimes" in their own home and at the hands of someone they know.
"These proposed changes respond to our increased understanding of what family and domestic violence is and how it impacts women and children. It is critical that our laws do this for a safer community,” she said.
“These changes are ultimately about saving lives.”