Domestic Violence – Unheard Voices

Image of a frightened woman seen through broken spectacles

The latest in our Justice in Focus series was held in collaboration with QUT and investigated the communities and voices who have not been heard, despite the recent focus on Domestic Violence.

Our panel at the Banco Court consisted of a community legal centre lawyer working in the Family Law field, an internationally respected academic, the founder of community support group Sisters Inside and the president and principal solicitor of the LGBTI Legal Service.


The wide ranging discussion was moderated by ABC Radio National’s Paul Barclay and recorded for future broadcast.

The panel agreed that that the current “one size fits all” approach to domestic violence matters and the adversarial nature of court hearings was a serious barrier to many survivors of domestic and family violence getting protection orders against perpetrators.

In addition there are many communities who are not well served by overstretched support services. The LGBTI communities, for example, have specific needs that are difficult for heterosexual aligned support services to provide. Where can a woman escaping from her violent female partner find refuge when women only spaces might not be as good a solution as they are in the wider community?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman have many more  barriers to overcome than the wider community before they can access services. These may include English as a second or third language, discrimination from police and, more recently, a move toward ‘gender neutral’ services which conflicts with the homosocial nature of many traditional Aboriginal communities.

Older Queenslanders who suffer domestic and family violence have their own barriers. The ‘traditional’ model of intimate partner violence may not fit their circumstances at all, with controlling or violent behaviours sometimes coming from their adult children or informal carers.

A different, less adversarial, model of protection was canvassed. This was discussed with reference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people who, it was said, needed to control these matters within their own communities rather than try to adapt to system imposed by the currently dominant culture.

The discussion touched on many other communities and areas of need. It will be broadcast soon as part of Radio National’s Big Ideas series. We will link to the podcast when it becomes available.

As ever we are grateful to Chief Justice Catherine Holmes for the use of the Banco Court and our University partners for supporting this series of Legal Education forums.


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