Tuesday, 18 May 2010

White Ribbon Ambassadors in Townsville

Last week I was privileged to take part in a meeting of a group of White Ribbon Ambassadors in Townsville, who debated proposed changes to Queensland's Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act.

The Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989 is the Act of Parliament that not surprisingly deals with domestic and family violence. It has two parts to it: enabling people to obtain civil protection orders (usually called domestic violence orders or DVO's), and setting up a scheme for prosecuting those who breach the orders.

Currently the Queensland Government is undertaking a review of the Act and has called for public input. The purpose of the meeting was to provide that input from a  disparate group of men. Aside from myself, others attending included:

  • former Townsville Mayor, Queensland Minister and Speaker, the Hon. Mike Reynolds
  • President of the Australian Psychological Society, Professor Bob Montgomery
  • Police district domestic violence liaison officer, Sgt Mark Lance
  • Dr Brian Sullivan, an expert on perpetrator programs
  • Alan Johnson, local Aboriginal elder
It was recognised that, without trivialising or minimising violence by women to men, or that occuring in same sex relationships, domestic violence is primarily of a gendered nature, by men to women.

It was also recognised that perpetrator programs need to be made available, compulsory where necessary, properly accredited, with appropriate standards, and for longer course times, to enable them to be the most effective.

The group called for police to be able to issue on the spot orders, as has happens interstate, such as in Tasmania; provided that these are for short periods, say up to 72 hours.

The group also called for it to be mandatory for magistrates when considering making a protection order or a temporary protection order, to have to consider section 68R of the Family Law Act. This is a section that is often overlooked, which empowers State and Territory magistrates when making temporary or final protection orders to alter or freeze existing parenting orders under the Family Law Act - but only for a period of 21 days.

White Ribbon Ambassadors are men who have taken the pledge not to be violent to women, and not to condone or to be silent about violence to women. They are men seen to be leaders who can influence others in this crucial debate.

November 25 each year is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, commonly known as White Ribbon Day. The white ribbon movement is a movement of men. It arose from tragic events in Canada some years ago when a man took a gun to school, released the men and boys and systemically gunned down women and girls.

The Queensland Government review is also occuring at the same time as the review by the Australian Law Reform Commission into how the Family Law Act deals with domestic violence. There will inevitably be some overlap between the two reviews, because of the overlap of the two pieces of legislation.

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