EDITORIAL: Abusers must face swift penalties for Domestic Violence Order breaches

Editorial
The Nightly
3 Min Read
EDITORIAL: National Cabinet will meet in two months to discuss progress made in eliminating family violence. The outcome of that meeting will show whether our leaders are truly taking this crisis seriously. 
EDITORIAL: National Cabinet will meet in two months to discuss progress made in eliminating family violence. The outcome of that meeting will show whether our leaders are truly taking this crisis seriously.  Credit: Adobe stock/ Adobe stock

It has been three weeks since Prime Minister Anthony Albanese convened National Cabinet to discuss family and gender-based violence.

That meeting ended with a commitment from the Federal Government to fund a range of strategies to combat men’s violence, including an investment of $925 million across five years to permanently establish the Leaving Violence Program, as well as efforts to reduce online harms and exposure of kids to violent and misogynistic content.

Since then, the carnage in our homes has continued.

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The latest victim, a two-year-old boy, was murdered by his father in the NSW north coast town of Lismore.

It’s difficult to find the words to fully articulate the depravity of the act of violence perpetrated by 38-year-old James Harrison against his little boy Rowan and by extension Rowan’s mother Sophie Roome.

Incomprehensible. Cowardly. Evil.

Dr Roome, an intensive care specialist at Lismore Base Hospital, knew her ex-partner, with whom she had broken up with last year, was dangerous.

She was so concerned by his behaviour after their break-up that she sought an apprehended violence order in August. That order was extended just two months ago, banning Harrison from assaulting, stalking or intimidating Dr Roome.

As is so often the case, it did nothing to protect Rowan from his father’s craven violence, or Dr Roome from the life sentence of grief she now faces.

Domestic violence orders, which exist across all States under different names, can save lives.

But many perpetrators of family violence show little regard for them, continuing to subject their victims to abuse. To these men, domestic violence orders aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

They must be shown they are wrong.

In theory, there are severe consequences for breaching domestic violence orders. Some States can impose penalties of up to five years in prison, depending on the circumstances of the breach.

There is a willingness from police and courts to prosecute DVO breaches. In 2022-23, 39 per cent of all family violence offences were related to a breach of an order.

And yet the statistics themselves show that they still aren’t taken seriously by many perpetrators. Time and again, it’s the same abusers churning through the justice system for breach after breach, thumbing their noses at the law.

Clearly, something needs to change. To be in any way useful, DVOs must be comprehensively enforced by police and courts.

Rarely do family violence murders come out of the blue. A history of violence is the strongest indicator that a relationship has the potential to turn deadly.

That’s something society must seize on if we are to have any hope of stopping the tidal wave of death and misery caused by family violence.

National Cabinet will next meet in two months to discuss progress made in eliminating family violence. The outcome of that meeting will show whether our leaders are truly taking this crisis seriously.

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