Domestic violence – the real ‘emergency’ facing Australia

Leisa ToomeyThis week has tipped the scales further for serious and immediate intervention for people in domestically violent situations and even as I write this another domestic incident has taken place in Victoria.

Whilst I understand the need for the Government to concentrate on drug related issues such as the ice epidemic, the real emergency is in our homes and those toxic relationships that are tearing apart families and placing untold strain on the resources available to assist people in crisis.

There are many reasons people don’t leave their very, very difficult home circumstances from a misplaced sense of loyalty to fear of the unknown which of course is understandable.  Now more than ever its imperative focus on offering a safe haven without the red tape that currently exists for emergency accommodation.

Domestic violence has become our national emergency, not the budget, and until we as a nation concentrate on supporting families in crisis we will continue to see the tragic types of incidences from this week alone.

As lawyers we are conscious of assessing people in crisis and learn to pick up on what is not being said rather than what is being told to us by our clients who are considering separation or are separating.

It can become abundantly clear that some clients don’t realise they are in the middle of something that can lead to tragic consequences.  We as lawyers can only guide our clients but what would make our role easier in providing advice to clients in these circumstances is a proper government frame work that can offer real hope to break free.

If you need help you can contact DV Connect via 1800 811 811 or if you are in danger now call 000.

Leisa Toomey is a Practice group leader of Schultz Toomey O’Brien Lawyers – part of the Slater & Gordon Group. She is an Accredited Family Law Specialist with the Queensland Law Society

Tackling Domestic Violence

Domestic ViolenceThe Labor government has said that harsher penalties are needed for perpetrators of domestic violence and those who breach domestic violence orders with acts of physical violence.

Labor has proposed increasing the jail term from two to three years and also proposed that victims are able to secure more support and assistance whether or not physical abuse was used.

Originally published as Labor plan to tackle domestic abuse.

Do you think ‘MEA’ should be allowed to continue teaching?

TeacherA woman who has a violent history and has been accused of hitting her children and stabbing her husband has been cleared by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to continue teaching.

The VCAT ruled it was in the ‘public interest’ that she continues teaching even though she has a “long history of suicidal ideations and erratic, sometimes violent behaviours in front of children”.

Although VCAT deputy president Heather Lambrick thought it was of “grave concern that parental violence occurred in the presence of children” she has also said “MEA has a very impressive professional history of which she is justifiably proud”, and she did not consider MEA an “unjustifiable risk to the safety of children at large”.

Ms Lambrick has said “‘MEA is currently being looked after in psychiatric care and once stable will pose no risk to children.”

Bikie jailed over threats made to ex-partner and her son

jailA bikie will spend at least 2 years behind bars after threatening to kill his ex-partner and her young son while they slept. The man spent six-months terrorising her and her son, despite an intervention order being in place to protect the woman.

The couple separated in September last year after a 13 year relationship and he had already served time in jail for breaching intervention orders against her.

“I’m going to f—ing cave your head in and don’t think people will stop me,” he told her on one occasion in front of dozens of witnesses.

“Your days are numbered,” he told her in one and warned her to “order a coffin” in another.

The man is a serious violent offender with a history dating back to 1997.

He pleaded guilty to more than a dozen charges which include unlawful assault, criminal damage and threat to kill.

A Victim of Domestic Violence

A lady by the name of Jaquie Lait was a victim of domestic violence. She was in and out of hospital for months and months, sometimes returning only hours after being discharged with further injuries. When Jaquie was pregnant she was told by doctors that she had a 50% chance of surviving the birth of her child due to the prolonged physical abuse that has been sustained to her body. She didn’t want her child to be bought up without a mother. This is when Jaquie made the most important decision to remove herself from the abusive relationship.

Jaquie started a new life by moving to Toowoomba and after nine years of being out of the terrible situation, she found a love for fighting and now helps many others at the domestic violence wing of Fighters Against Child Abuse Australia.

Remember domestic abuse doesn’t always come in the form of physical abuse, it can also include:

  • Verbal – constant put-downs, name calling etc.
  • Sexual – any forced or unwanted sexual contact/activity etc.
  • Social – controlling where you go, who you see, geographically isolating you.
  • Financial – being refused/denied access to money etc.
  • Damage to property – kicking a hole in the wall, scratching your car etc.
  • Psychological – behaviour and/or comments to undermine your sense of self etc.
  • Spiritual/Cultural – not allowing you to practice your chosen religion or cultural beliefs.
  • Stalking – worrying or frightening you by watching, phoning or following you. Stalking is a crime.

If you have been or are the victim of domestic abuse, contact us for assistance today. We have a professional team who are here to help you.

(Source: Sunshine Coast Daily 2014,

Male Violence Against Women

Violence against womenAccording to new research one Australian woman dies every week from an act of domestic violence. 28.5% of women have experienced some form of domestic violence and 40% of Australian women have experienced violence since the age of 15. Most of the violence also occurs within the home where the woman is in an intimate partner relationship.

Male violence against women in Australia is still largely unknown by many, and therefore White Ribbon, who are a not-for-profit organisation, have released a clip on Youtube titled “Australia, the land of secrets” to help raise awareness.

There are a number of Myths surrounding domestic violence against women, these include:

  • Women should just remove themselves from abusive situations
  • Some people provoke the violence
  • Violence is caused by drugs or alcohol
  • Violent people are mentally ill
  • Only certain types of women experience violence
  • There is nothing we can do to end violence against women

Domestic violence against women is still largely an unaddressed issue, you can show your support annually by supporting and raising awareness by wearing a white ribbon on White Ribbon Day.

What is domestic and family violence?

Domestic & Family ViolenceAccording to the Domestic Violence Resource Centre, domestic and family violence occurs when someone in an intimate or familial relationship attempts to gain and/or maintain power and control over another through a wide range of abusive behaviours.  Some of these behaviours may include:

  • physical
  • sexual
  • verbal
  • emotional
  • psychological
  • economical
  • social
  • stalking
  • spiritual/cultural
  • threatening

There was an article on, on Friday 25th October 2013 which discusses women with disabilities being twice as likely to be abused. Take a read of it here.

If you are being abused whether you are being stalked or followed, someone putting you down or making racial taunts, threatening you or someone you know, forcing you to engage in sexual activities that you do not consent to, damaging  your property, repeatedly calling, texting or emailing you without your consent, you don’t have to deal with it alone.

Domestic and family violence is not acceptable and can have far reaching consequences for you and your children.  If you are being abused talk to one of our friendly family lawyers who can talk to you about your options.

Domestic Violence and Family Law

Leisa ToomeyWhen dealing in Family Law matters I pretty much see it all. Sometimes I see the best in people but sadly, I also see the worst. And when it comes to domestic violence, protecting a child, whilst trying to balance the relationship that child has with an abusive parent or parents, is not always as clear cut or as easy as you could imagine.
In an attempt to find the right balance, the government has a Bill before the Federal Parliament seeking to amend some of the deficiencies in the current legislation, whilst at the same time improving the ability of courts, to protect children who might be at risk from family violence.

In short the Bill is seeking to widen the definition of “abuse” to include psychological abuse and serious neglect and provide clear examples of family violence such as stalking, repeated derogatory taunts, intentionally causing death or injury to an animal and, intentionally damaging or destroying property. Other examples include social isolation and withholding financial support.

For the first time the Bill also includes a statutory definition of “exposed”:

“For the purposes of this Act, a child is exposed to family violence if the child sees or hears family violence or otherwise experiences the effects of family violence. Examples of situations that may constitute a child being exposed to family violence include (but are not limited to) the child:
(a) overhearing threats of death or personal injury by a member of the child’s family towards another member of the child’s family; or
(b) seeing or hearing an assault of a member of the child’s family by another member of the child’s family; or
(c) comforting or providing assistance to a member of the child’s family who has been assaulted by another member of the child’s family; or
(d) cleaning up a site after a member of the child’s family has intentionally damaged property of another member of the child’s family; or
(e) being present when police or ambulance officers attend an incident involving the assault of a member of the child’s family by another member of the child’s

The Bill makes it abundantly clear that a child’s right to be protected from family violence is greater than the right of the abusive parent to have contact with the child or children. Family Law disputes are hard for everyone involved – particularly children. It may be difficult, but it is vital to ensure their well being at all times, particularly when emotions are running high and the temptation is there to say or do things that you wouldn’t dream of under normal circumstances.