Definition of family violence in victims’ compensation legislation
6.134 Most victims’ compensation Acts do not define family violence. Compensation is generally triggered by a nexus to a criminal act and a consequent injury or death. The victims’ compensation schemes in NSW and the Northern Territory, however, expressly define or refer to family violence, as set out below.
6.135 The Victims Support and Rehabilitation Act 1996 (NSW) expressly recognises ‘domestic violence’ as a compensable ‘act of violence’. It also recognises ‘domestic violence injuries’ as compensable injuries, as well as injuries arising from the intimidation and stalking of a person within the meaning of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW) in apparent contravention of a protection order.
6.136 The Victims Support and Rehabilitation Act defines a ‘domestic violence offence’ as a personal violence offence within the meaning of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act against persons in defined relationships. The definition of ‘domestic violence’ is therefore linked to that in the family violence legislation of NSW. The definition does not include, for example, economic or emotional abuse, as these are not recognised under the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act.
6.137 The Victims of Crime Assistance Regulations (NT) defines when a victim suffers ‘domestic violence injuries’ in the following way:
(1) A victim suffers domestic violence injuries if:
(a) the victim suffers 1 or more injuries as a direct result of:
(i) a violent act involving a pattern of abuse, committed by an offender with whom the victim is in a domestic relationship; or
(ii) a violent act of unlawful stalking under section 189 of the Criminal Code in contravention, or apparent contravention, of a domestic violence order; or
(iii) a combination of violent acts mentioned in subparagraphs (i) and (ii) if committed by the same offender; and
(b) the injuries are more than transient or trifling, though they need not be serious.
6.138 The Regulations also define a ‘pattern of abuse’ and link the definitions of ‘domestic relationship’ and ‘domestic violence order’ to the definitions of those terms in the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007 (NT).
6.139 As discussed in Chapter 4, the purpose of victims’ compensation schemes include providing assistance to victims of crime, supporting them in recovering from crime, and giving statutory recognition to the harm that they suffer from criminal offending.
6.140 It would therefore be inappropriate for legislation establishing victims’ compensation schemes to adopt definitions of family violence used in family violence legislation to the extent that those definitions include conduct that does not constitute a criminal offence—such as emotional abuse or economic abuse. The adoption of a definition that captures non-criminal conduct would clearly be in direct conflict with the purposes of such schemes, as they are currently framed.
6.141 The Commissions note that they have recommended that the NSW family violence legislation should be amended to include a wider definition of family violence, which may capture conduct that is not necessarily a criminal offence. The Commissions do not propose, however, that this extended definition of family violence be applied in the context of the NSW victims’ compensation legislation, which awards victims for injuries resulting from a criminal act.
6.142 However, there are other ways that legislation governing victims’ compensation schemes can be amended to allow victims of family violence to be better compensated for their injuries. These options are discussed in Chapter 29.