Victims of domestic violence and their families will receive increased protection under proposed new State Government legislation.
Community Services Minister Eric Ripper said today the proposed legislation aimed to ensure the immediate safety of domestic violence victims.
"It will stress to perpetrators and the general community that domestic violence is illegal and will not be tolerated," the Minister said.
"The current widespread extent of domestic violence in Western Australia is unacceptable."
Mr Ripper said there were 3,000 applications for restraining orders across the State in the past year and, at the Perth Central Court alone, an average of 25 women each week sought restraining orders to protect them from violent spouses.
The Minister today gave details of the new legislation at the official opening of the Koolkuna Women's Refuge in Midland, run by the Eastern Region Women's Refuge Group. Koolkuna was an Aboriginal word which meant 'safe place'.
Including the new service, the Government currently funded 28 women's refuges across the State, which provided 423 beds each night for women and children escaping domestic violence.
"Domestic violence remains society's widely-accepted dark secret which contributes to about 40 per cent of murders in Western Australia," Mr Ripper said.
"In the five-month period up to March this year, police records show that half the murders committed in this State were the direct consequence of domestic violence."
The legislation was foreshadowed in the Social Advantage package which allocated an extra $1.6 million, over the next three years, to the Government's domestic violence program.
It was proposed that the new legislation should:
· enable police to enter premises without a warrant where they had reasonable suspicion, and to remove weapons from the home;
· enable police to remove a suspected perpetrator from private premises without arrest, for a reasonable period for the purpose of obtaining a restraining order;
· consider application of restraining orders as an alternative to the criminal process - a secondary option where criminal prosecution was impossible;
· make Western Australian restraining orders applicable Australia-wide. The Australian Police Ministers' Council meeting in May agreed on a national approach to domestic violence and that protection orders should be portable and enforcable between all States;
· amend the Bail Act to include denial of contact and prevention of cohabitation with the victim as conditions of bail.
Mr Ripper said a discussion paper on proposals for the new legislation was being prepared and would soon be available from the Office of the Family. There would be a six-week public consultation period.