Legal system failing domestic violence victims: June Williams

Family Services Illawarra chief executive officer June Williams says the legal system which aims to protect families is in fact ‘‘compounding’’ the issues faced by domestic violence sufferers.

Her comments come after the ABC aired a Four Corners episode featuring Rosie Batty, whose 11-year-old son Luke was killed by his father during cricket training in Melbourne in February.

The episode uncovered flaws in the system which was intended to keep Rosie and her son safe.

Ms Williams said occasionally, rulings made by family law courts could make the situation worse for women suffering from domestic violence.

‘‘The police work hard to do their best to keep women and children safe [but] an apprehended domestic violence order is only as good as its use – it’s dependent on women to breach their violent partners,’’ she said.

‘‘Women are placed in the invidious position that if she does breach him it brings more violence into her home.’’

During the 24 hours to 5pm Monday, police were called to 19 domestic incidents in the Illawarra.

According to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, the Wollongong local government area has a domestic assault rate of 361.7 per 100,000 residents, compared with a state average of 391.2 per 100,000.

Shellharbour has a rate of 346.6, while Kiama has a rate of 191.3.

Ms Williams said family violence was an issue that could affect anyone, regardless of their background.

‘‘So often we think it’s only people living in poverty or dependent on welfare who are impacted by domestic violence but it crosses all strata of society.

 ‘‘It’s really a problem the community needs to address – I think there’s only so much governments or agencies like police can do.

 ‘‘At end of day we all share the responsibility for keeping children safe.’’

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