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MP Annabelle Cleeland puts family violence in focus

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Grace Frost
Grace Frost
Hi, I'm Grace Frost. I was honoured to report for the Review as their Digital Journalist from mid-2022 to the beginning of 2024. Ive since made a move to the Herald Sun.

Member for Euroa Annabelle Cleeland has called for action after new figures revealed parts of the Euroa electorate were home to some of the worst family violence statistics in Victoria.

Speaking in Parliament earlier this month, Ms Cleeland said the numbers in the region were shocking.

“In regional areas, sadly including the Euroa electorate, breaches of family violence are one of the most frequent offences committed,” she said.

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“It is the number one recorded offence in the Benalla, Strathbogie, Mitchell, Campaspe, Greater Shepparton, and Greater Bendigo LGAs – essentially the entire electorate.”

Mitchell Shire recorded an 11 per cent increase family violence incidents in the past 12 months, with nearly 1100 incidents and 736 breaches of family violence orders.

“These numbers are showing that we are in the midst of a family violence crisis,” Ms Cleeland said.

“Despite these heartbreaking statistics, Seymour and Benalla do not have dedicated physical points of contact for those experiencing family violence.”

Ms Cleeland spoke on a Bill in Parliament aiming to make non-fatal strangulation committed against a family member a standalone domestic violence offence.

“Someone strangled by their abusive partner will be up to seven times more likely to face severe harm and death than other survivors of family violence,” Ms Cleeland said.

“As it stands, Victoria is the only state that does not have specific laws relating to non-fatal strangulation, with the incidents commonly charged as an assault.”

Ms Cleeland said she was pleased to see Victoria join the rest of the country in recognising the significance of the crime.

“With family violence being an epidemic in our community, it is so important that we can recognise the signs to support victim-survivors, and now through this legislation, make sure those committing the crimes are sufficiently punished,” she said.

The State Government introduced the Crimes Amendment (Non-fatal Strangulation) Bill 2023 into Parliament in response to advocacy and research showing someone who survives non-fatal strangulation by a current or former partner is seven times more likely to be seriously injured or murdered by that partner.

Victorian Attorney General Jaclyn Symes said the government had listened to those affected when creating the Bill.

“Non-fatal strangulation is rarely an isolated event. Instead it often reveals an ongoing and escalating pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour – especially when it occurs in family violence circumstances,” she said.

“We’ve listened to the concerns of those families affected by these acts of violence and the Bill will make this behaviour clear for what it is – controlling, dangerous and unacceptable.”

The reforms will create two offences.

First an offence of intentional non-fatal strangulation, which does not require proof of injury will carry a maximum five-year prison term.

A second more serious offence of non-fatal strangulation where a perpetrator intentionally causes injury, will be created with a maximum penalty of 10 years.

A consent defence will be available for the five-year offence – in the context of sexual activity, this will be an affirmative consent defence to ensure that the same rigorous, victim-centred consent standards that apply in sexual offences also apply to sexual non-fatal strangulation.

It will provide protection for people who have engaged in genuinely consensual non-fatal strangulation during sexual activity and no intentional injury has occurred.

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