Chris Minns’ domestic violence bail changes will move the dial, but there is a caveat

This is the most glaring omission in the current version of the proposed reforms, and one that should be addressed as part of the consultation and debate on the proposed bill. After all, ADVOs were created with a view to the timely protection of women and children, but also in light of the unwillingness of many victims to prosecute intimate partners – at least in the case of less serious violence.


Three other key elements are still missing from the criminal justice reforms announced by the government.

First: training. Police and magistrates need more training on how this new regime should operate and what red flags are. The tragedy of Molly Ticehurst’s death suggests that we must demand this all Family violence issues are dealt with by specialist, trained magistrates – also via video link if necessary.

The government has made progress in this area by predicting video hearings in remote areas over the weekend. But they should focus on training magistrates and police to provide victims with a decisive response in the event of breaches of an ADVO.

Secondly: more support for perpetrators and victims. This type of support means psychological support and help dealing with mental illness, substance abuse, and intergenerational trauma. For some offenders, bail should also be accompanied by the wearing of an ankle bracelet And the willingness to access this type of support.


As Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner Micaela Cronin and victim survivors have highlighted this week, alcohol is a huge part of the current family violence crisis in NSW – in some ways 65 per cent of the problem. Tackling domestic violence therefore means rethinking current laws on access to alcohol, but also requiring perpetrators to seek help – both for themselves and their families.

Victims obviously deserve even more support. That’s why bail reforms must — and do — go hand in hand with a major increase in funding for victim services. But we also need to look at new ways to support victims in enforcing ADVOs. That is, we must continue to demand that the government test new, innovative programs around psychosocial support for both perpetrators and victims – not just continue to fund our existing programs, even at higher levels.

Third, safeguards. We must ensure that electronic surveillance does not pave the way for stalking, or for police to track perpetrators for other reasons – such as outstanding arrest warrants, or for immigration reasons.

The government is aware of the problem of stalking and has made welcome changes to the laws criminalizing this type of individual tracking. But it must do more to protect itself from the risk of police access – both in fairness to perpetrators and victims. Without these safeguards, many victims – especially First Nations and culturally and linguistically diverse women – may be unwilling to rely on the protections provided by electronic monitoring.

One way to create these safeguards would be to put oversight in the hands of private telecommunications operators, and require police to obtain a warrant before accessing their data for non-family violence. This would also hold the promise of a rapid, widespread rollout of effective electronic monitoring for large numbers of accused offenders.

However, police and corrections have the same capacity – provided we give them the resources they need to get the job done, with safeguards in place. This is indeed what happened in Spain and Portugal.

The government should therefore be commended for its decisive and meaningful action against domestic violence in recent weeks. But we must also be clear: much more action is needed before the government – ​​or the women of NSW – can function normally again.

Rosalind Dixon is Professor of Law and Director of the Gilbert + Tobin Center of Public Law at UNSW Sydney. She is also the former Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at UNSW.