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Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month – May 2021: A system that can’t meet the demand – Part 2


Attwood Marshall Lawyers Family Law Special Counsel Michael Twohill joins Steve Stuttle on Radio 4CRB to continue his discussion on domestic and family violence prevention month and how the current system hasn’t been able to meet the demand of those reaching out for help.

What has been done to date to try to curb this trend and prevent domestic violence?

Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland

In February 2015, a report was presented to Premier Annastacia Palasczcuk called “Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an end to domestic and family violence in Queensland”. The report made 140 recommendations based on the insights the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland gathered from five months of engagement with communities and individuals.

Later that same year, the Premier released her response to the report, and accepted 121 of the Special Taskforce’s recommendations directed at government, in addition to supporting the 19 recommendations directed at non-government bodies.

The Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Strategy 2016-2026 and supporting action plans were provided to outline the framework for taking strong, positive, and coordinated action to better support people affected by domestic and family violence.

In October 2019, the Premier announced that all the 140 recommendations had been delivered. Some of the key strategies implemented included:

  • The establishment of permanent specialist domestic and family violence courts, including one in Southport on the Gold Coast
  • Funding of seven new domestic and family violence shelters throughout Queensland
  • Legislative changes to better protect Queenslanders, this included making strangulation a standalone offence
  • Delivery of targeted communication activities, including the implementation of a bystander campaign urging Queenslanders to do something and directing people experiencing violence to help and support services.

The Federal Budget 2021

In May 2021, it was announced in the 2021 Federal Budget that a further $416m will go towards supporting the family law system over the next four years, aiming to support women and families that are experiencing family and domestic violence through a number of measures to increase information-sharing and support.

The new initiatives announced in the Federal Budget include:

  • $85 million over three years from 2022-23 in additional funding for enhanced social supports under the Family Advocacy and Support Services and for 26 new locations, including in regional areas;
  • $101.4 million over four years from 2021-22 to increase access to Children’s Contact Services for families across Australia who are unable to safely manage arrangements themselves for the contact and changeover of their children;
  • $60.8 million over four years from 2021-22 to enable the family courts to implement a new approach to family law case management;
  • $29 million for a new initiative called the “National Strategic Framework for Information Sharing” between the Family Law and Family Violence and Child Protection systems;
  • $129 million over four years from 2021-22 for increased legal assistance funding to help women access justice;
  • $4.7 million over two years to strengthen criminal justice responses to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and coercive control. Coercive control is something that has been recognised as a significant form of domestic violence and it is one area we need to really do something help people identify this behaviour and do something about it; and
  • $6.3 million in additional funding in 2021-22 to facilitate increased justice for victims of sexual assault.

Is enough being done to support families and stop the violence?

At Attwood Marshall Lawyers, we do not believe enough has been done across the board to stop domestic and family violence. The jury is out on what effect the extra initiatives and funding by government will have on the system.

Everybody realises now more than ever that unless we do something significant, the issue is not going to get better it is only going to continue to get worse. When we look back to 2015 when the “Not Now, Not Ever” report was first presented to the Premier, we can see that domestic violence is still widespread and it has not improved. We are still seeing significant and shocking cases of high-level violence. We need to address the situation head-on and put a stronger focus on education, not only for the adult members of our community, but also focus on educating our children in our schools. This will help to ensure the next generation are included in the awareness campaign so that all members of the community can accept that there is no place for domestic or family violence in our community. Naturally, the best place for our children to learn these very important values is at home and to have great role models within their family and friends’ circle. This extends to sporting clubs, churches, libraries, youth groups, and other activities.

Steps to take to get help if you are experiencing domestic or family violence

If you are currently experiencing domestic or family violence, we recommend you follow these steps:

Step 1: If you are in immediate danger, please call the police (000). We have all heard that people have reached out to the police and nothing has been done however this is your best option available if you are in immediate danger to have the offender immediately removed from the premises and to stop the violent behaviour in its tracks. The police can issue a police protection notice on the spot. In the majority of cases when you ring 000, you will get immediate attention from the police. They take these calls very seriously, so don’t be afraid to make the call.

Step 2: Secondly, find somewhere safe to stay. If home is not a safe place, seek refuge with a friend, colleague, family member, or at a refuge centre. There are a number of local refuge centres available on the Gold Coast, Brisbane, and throughout Australia. The police or domestic violence help lines can direct you to where the refuge centres are. Do not wait for the violence to escalate, if you can leave, do so as soon as possible. Sadly, this is where it can seem the most difficult. Many women are too fearful or ashamed to take this step. It can be extremely hard, but critical to your wellbeing.

Step 3: If you are not in immediate danger however need advice and assistance with getting yourself out of a domestic violent situation, speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. They will be able to help you. At Attwood Marshall Lawyers, we regularly help women make an application for a Domestic Violence Order or Apprehended Violence Order and put them in contact with a support network to help them break the cycle and escape the dangers they are faced with at home.

How a Domestic Violence Order (DVO) can help you

A Domestic Violence Order (DVO) is made by a magistrate in court and can protect you, your children, or anyone else at threat, by making a person committing violence against you be of good behaviour and stop committing domestic violence.

The court may make a Temporary Protection Order in the interim until the next court hearing to protect the person until the magistrate makes a final protection order. A court can make a temporary Protection Order if:

  • A police officer makes an application for a Police Protection Notice to the court;
  • If an applicant of a Protection Order has requested the application be heard by the court before the respondent is served;
  • If the court adjourns the hearing of an application for a Protection Order or an application for a variation of an order.

Sometimes the magistrate will give them the opportunity to speak to Centrecare who have programs in place for them for perpetrators to undertake. It is a 16-week program and they are very good and the magistrate in those cases will adjourn the matter to give the respondent an opportunity to undertake the program. Once completed, the perpetrator comes back before the court and the magistrate will then deal with the matter once more.

Protection Orders work as a deterrent for most people that have a DVO made against them.

You can ask for certain conditions to be added to the order, such as making it illegal for the violent person to come within a specified distance of where you live or work.

Statistics for domestic violence orders in Queensland:

  • For the year to date, from 31 March 2020 to 31 March 2021, 30,066 DVO applications were lodged in Queensland (this includes new applications and variations to existing applications).
  • 73.9% of those applications were lodged by Police
  • 73.3% of the applications were lodged by women
  • 99.6% of the applications were made against someone who was intimate or a family connection.

Other help that is available for anyone experiencing domestic or family violence

There are various 24-hour helplines available for women and their children experiencing domestic and family violence. This can be a great first step for people to take to reach out, make the call, get some immediate support and advice about your circumstances.

  • DV Connect Womensline (1800 811 811) offers emergency transport and accommodation as well as crisis counselling and interventions.
  • On the other side, for men who are experiencing or committing domestic violence, they can contact DV Connect Mensline (1800 600 636) where they will have access to telephone counselling, referral and support services.
  • Locally, the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre on the Gold Coast can be contacted on 5591 4222 or 5532 9000. They provide a wide range of programs to support women and their children and also work with men who perpetrate domestic and family violence.
  • 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) is also available to provide support for people, friends and family experiencing or at risk of experiencing sexual assault, domestic or family violence. They also provide support for professionals who are supporting someone experiencing or at risk of sexual assault and domestic violence.
  • Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis access to crisis support and suicide prevention services. They can be contacted on 13 11 14.

If you are ever in immediate danger, please call the police (000).

Attwood Marshall Lawyers want to help put a stop to domestic and family violence

We each have a role to play to help protect anyone experiencing violence. As individuals, a community, a workplace, a family; we can all play our part in helping prevent domestic and family violence and supporting those people who are affected.

At Attwood Marshall Lawyers, we offer a 24/7 phone line to make sure if someone needs our help, they can get in touch with us and we can act quickly to support them.

The signs of domestic violence are not always obvious. Domestic violence can be about controlling someone’s mind and emotions just as much as it is about physically hurting them. Being a victim of abuse can leave you scared and confused and for many victims, it can be difficult to see their partner’s actions for what they truly are.

Often abuse starts off subtly and ramps up over time.

These are some of the warning signs that you may be in an abusive relationship:

  • If your partner puts you down or criticizes you
  • If your partner accuses you of having an affair
  • If your partner blames you for the abuse they perpetrate
  • If your partner is controlling and tries to tell you what to wear and how to look
  • If your partner threatens to hurt you or someone you care about
  • If your partner throws things or punches walls when angry
  • If your partner yells at you or makes you feel small
  • If your partner controls your money
  • If your partner isolates you from your friends and family
  • If your partner physically abuses you
  • If your partner withholds food, medication, or sleep from you
  • If your partner sexually abuses you

If you suspect a friend or loved one is in an abusive relationship, there are signs to watch out for, including (but not limited to):

  • If they appear to be afraid of their partner
  • If they make excuses for injuries they have sustained
  • If you notice any changes to their personality
  • If they are anxious and are constantly checking in with their partner
  • If they are overly concerned about pleasing their partner or letting them down
  • If they are wearing clothes that do not fit the season
  • If they consistently miss work or social gatherings for no clear reason
  • If they are reluctant to leave their children with their partner
  • If they express that they have no access to money, or that their partner makes them justify every cent that they spend.

Everyone has a right to feel safe and be free from violence and abuse. If you are concerned about a loved one, make sure you listen closely to what they have to say, let them know the domestic and family violence is not their fault. Focus on their safety and be sure to remind them that support services are available, and legal help is also always there if they need it.

If you need assistance with a domestic or family violence related matter, you can contact our 24/7 phone line any time on 1800 621 071.

If you are experiencing domestic and family violence and are in immediate danger, please call 000. Alternatively, please reach out to one of the support lines mentioned in this article or contact our dedicated family law team who can help you understand your options. You can contact Family Law DVO Paralegal Brittany Watsford on 07 5506 8264 or email

You can also visit our lawyers at any one of our office locations at any of our conveniently located offices at Robina Town Centre, CoolangattaKingscliff, BrisbaneSydney or Melbourne.

To listen to Michael’s first podcast on this topic, click below:

Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month – May 2021: A call for change – Part 1

Read more related articles:

Domestic violence in long-term relationships – know the signs of abuse

Camp Hill murder-suicide a wake up call for judicial system: Family Law Special Counsel




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Michael Twohill

Michael Twohill

Special Counsel
Family Law

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The contents of this article are considered accurate as at the date of publication. The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and is of a general nature only. Readers should seek legal advice about their specific circumstances. 

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