It’s time for politicians to commit to eradicating domestic violence

Christine Smyth

The national shame of domestic violence cannot be left unaddressed, writes Christine Smyth.

During my term as Queensland Law Society president, I have often spoken out about the need for more judges and court resources, and that is particularly the case when it comes to the resources focusing on domestic violence.

This week, two new magistrates have been appointed to the Southport Domestic Violence Specialist Court – and while this is certainly a step in the right direction, more needs to be done.

I confess that this is something of a bittersweet moment for me – while I am glad to see resources being put into the courts, the fact that those resources are needed specifically for domestic violence issues shows that we have a very significant problem; that is something that should trouble us all greatly.

Sadly, no corner of the state can claim to be free of the scourge of domestic violence, and that is why the specialist courts need to be further rolled out –Queensland Law Society has called for this in its 2017 State Election Call to Parties document – this is an issue on which our almost 12,000 members will not stay silent.

The need to fund these courts – and specialist duty lawyers at all domestic violence courts throughout the state – is crucial.

The Society has consistently supported the development of specialist domestic violence courts across Queensland for one reason – they work. It is now time for political parties of all persuasion to deliver results rather than rhetoric, and come together in a bipartisan effort to ensure the elimination of domestic and family violence in this state.

We are in the midst of an epidemic of domestic violence, which is tearing at the very fabric of our society – our precious families. The words ‘national shame’ are overused, but in this case they are truly justified. Queensland can be a leader in banishing this violence by showing just how effective these courts can be.

It is impossible to overstate the devastating impact domestic violence has on our community. Part of the solution is ensuring that people have their cases processed quickly. The introduction of specialist courts is a great start, however, without access to quality legal assistance, those courts cannot function effectively and those affected by family violence suffer. Those courts need the help of specialist domestic violence duty lawyers and to be run by specially trained magistrates who have the skills to deal with these traumatic and heartbreaking matters on a daily basis.

More than 5,500 applications were filed at the Southport specialist court – the first of its kind established in Queensland – during its first year, proving that these courts are an essential tool in the eradication of domestic violence.

Domestic and family violence is literally fracturing our communities and society itself – a tragedy the state’s solicitors help clients deal with on a daily basis; increasing the resources and tools at their disposal is essential to the proper delivery of justice in our community.

Each small step that we take as a community is one step closer to helping those affected by domestic and family violence to begin rebuilding their lives. [Albert] Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result; the changes the Society and its members are calling for are a step in the direction of sanity, and one which cannot be taken soon enough.

Christine Smyth is the president of the Queensland Law Society.

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