WA law reform to tackle family domestic violence

The State Government have announced a family violence law reform package to tackle family and domestic violence in WA.

The proposed reforms introduced in parliament amend nine separate pieces of legislation across six portfolios to demonstrate a cross-government commitment to tackling family and domestic violence.

The Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing reports that one in six women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or previous partner, which is 1.6 million women across Australia.

Under the reform package, the proposed penalty for family violence offences could see perpetrators jailed for seven years.

The proposed penalty for threats to kill is 10 years and five years for any other types of threats.

The reform package includes two new offences under the Criminal Code, namely non-fatal strangulation and persistent family violence.

Persistent family violence, deprivation of liberty and criminal damage could see offenders imprisoned for 14 years.

Police would also be required to record every family violence incident.

Women's Council for Family and Domestic Violence chief executive officer Angela Hartwig said this Bill would introduce transforming change they had called for more than 40 years.

"We totally support the Bill and believe it will address a lot of victim blaming responses women have experienced when they do come forward," she said.

"It will be harder for perpetrators to justify, conceal or minimise their acts of violence with what's proposed in this Bill.

"Non-fatal strangulation is something we have worked alongside the state government to lobby for, because it is a very serious offence.

"We did research in refuges with 230 women, all of them had experienced non-fatal strangulation, 117 of those women had no visible signs. It can be and is a red flag towards domestic homicide.

"With these sorts of measures in place we can start to reduce domestic homicides in this state."

Ms Hartwig said the introduction of persistent domestic violence showed the complexities of domestic violence when victims could often not remember dates and locations of where they were assaulted.

Attorney General John Quigley said family and domestic violence was often referred to as a scourge in the community, but it was in fact an epidemic.

"Domestic and family violence victims make up 61 per cent of assault victims in WA and at least 30 per cent of all matters in the Magistrates Courts involve family violence," he said.

"Nationwide, a woman dies as a direct result of family violence every nine days.

"Our family relationships and homes should be our safe places, free from psychological and physical violence and abuse.

"This comprehensive Bill will ensure WA is at the forefront of the fight against family violence in Australia."

Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk said family and domestic violence was an awful reality for too many women and their children in WA.

"Of the homicide offences committed in WA last year, family and domestic violence was a factor in 37 of them," she said.

"According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it was the largest number of such offences recorded in a State or Territory.

"These proposed changes respond to our increased understanding of what family and domestic violence is and how it impacts women and children. It is critical that our laws do this for a safer community.

"These changes are ultimately about saving lives."