It has been reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that in 2017, Western Australia was the only state where over 60% of the assaults that occurred were related to family violence, which was the highest reported rate in Australia. Accordingly, it is not surprising that Legal Aid has reported that there was a 22% increase in the services provided to family violence victims in the same year.
It is possible that the increased statistics are due to more incidents of family violence being reported. However, it is also possible that the increased statistics are due to an increasing number of severe family violence occurrences, evident from the fact that the number of murders and attempted murders as a result of family violence increased from 14 in 2014, to 19 in 2015 and further to 35 in 2016.
In response to this increase, WA is taking steps to try to reduce family violence through the following recent legislative reforms:
On 1 July 2017, WA introduced Family Violence Restraining Order's ("FVRO's") which are new type of restraining order, which is specific to parties in a family relationship. For the Court to make an FVRO, it must be satisfied that family violence has been committed and is likely to occur again in the future alternatively that the person seeking to be protected has reasonable grounds to believe that family violence will occur.
On 28 June 2018, WA introduced the Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill, to prevent discrimination against tenants subjected to family violence. Under this amendment, special provisions allow a tenant to terminate their lease on the grounds of family violence. The victim is also able to change the locks and be alleviated of the financial burden that may come from property damage, unpaid rent or bond issues arising out of domestic violence incidents. As almost 40% of homelessness in WA is due to family violence, it is clear that this reform was a necessary one.
Thirdly, since 1 August 2018 employees covered by the award are now entitled to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year. The leave is also available to part-time and casual employees. This leave gives an employee the opportunity to take time off of work to deal with the impact of family violence when it is impractical for them to do so outside of their ordinary hours of work.
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