Family violence shake-up flagged but details scant

Family violence offenders will be hit with longer intervention orders and could face harsher punishment under sweeping Victorian reforms, but advocates say the devil will be in the detail.

Premier Jacinta Allan, Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes and other ministers unveiled a family violence prevention package while visiting students at Collingwood College on Thursday.

The centrepiece of the $100 million plan includes introducing a presumption of a minimum length for court-imposed family violence intervention orders.

Most of the orders presently last between six to 12 months and victims can be required to return to court to prove they remain unsafe.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan
Jacinta Allan says women deserve the right to be safe at all times in the community. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

The Victorian government is yet to settle on the minimum order length but Ms Symes said many advocates were pushing for it to be years or even longer.

"For many matters, six to 12 months is just not long enough and people want protection for much longer than that, if not forever," she told reporters.

In addition, the government will seek advice to strengthen sentencing guidance for order breaches, which range from a phone call to turning up at someone's door in the middle of the night.

"Those scary breaches, they are the ones that we want serious action taken against," Ms Symes said.

Police will be granted the power to issue longer family violence safety notices, which include conditions that alleged perpetrators stay out of their family homes unless a magistrate orders otherwise.

Victoria Police issue about 31 family violence safety notices a day and there are about 17,500 breaches of notices or family violence intervention orders a year.

Following a spate of high-profile deaths of women at the hands of men, the premier said she often found herself checking her own safety when walking the dog or exercising in the morning.

"This is what women do every day," Ms Allan said.

"We deserve the right to be safe in every single space in our community."

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes
Jaclyn Symes says penalties will be increased for breaches of intervention orders. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

South Australia in May passed laws to make it mandatory for those granted bail following an intervention order breach with an act or threat of violence to be monitored in home detention with an ankle bracelet.

In NSW, Premier Chris Minns has proposed a similar tracking for the most serious offenders.

Victoria will not go down that path based on advice from its 2016 family violence royal commission and the Victorian Law Reform Commission, Ms Symes said.

"An ankle bracelet can provide a false sense of security, a belief that there's going to be an immediate response ... that is not the reality," she said.

Greater protections have been promised to stalking victims through law changes informed by a 2022 Victorian Law Reform Commission report, which identified a gap in demonstrating a stalker's pattern of behaviour.

Outside of law reforms, Victoria's Respectful Relationships curriculum will be intensified and a respect and equality program boosted in schools to give boys better role models.

Ms Allan said young people were being bombarded with toxic content from "Andrew Tate types" because of social media algorithms and called on platforms to partner with governments to promote cultural change.

Screen showing school program on respectful relationships
Programs aimed at offsetting toxic social media content will be expanded in Victorian schools. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Sexual Assault Services Victoria chief executive Kathleen Maltzahn said details were thin on the ground but welcomed the initiatives.

"The justice system is often a horrific experience for victim survivors: long, expensive, confusing, traumatising," the group said

Law Institute of Victoria's Donna Cooper said the package was a step forward following the royal commission, but wanted more information

"We'd need to see more detail about some of the changes proposed, such as to the introduction of a new minimum length for (family violence intervention orders), changes to the stalking offence, and what the boost to case management means in practice," she said.

Opposition Leader John Pesutto said the coalition was inclined to support the proposed measures when they hit the floor of parliament in 2025 but would await more details.

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