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Domestic violence offenders may be tracked using GPS ankle bracelets

May 20, 2015 ·  By Shalailah Medhora Sunday 17 May 2015 03.07 BST Last modified on Sunday 17 May 2015 03.09 BST

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Federal government proposal to monitor high-risk perpetrators of family and domestic violence will be taken to Coag for consideration by states and territories

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Tony Abbott, centre, at a Coag meeting in April. The prime minister says all proposals to tackle the problem of violence against women should be considered. Photograph: Stefan Postles/AAP

Ankle bracelets could be used to track high-risk perpetrators of family and domestic violence under a proposal to be put forward by the federal government.

The proposal will see GPS monitoring devices attached to offenders who pose an immediate risk to their partners, children and other family members, similar to existing measures imposed on high-risk sex offenders in some states and territories.

The Commonwealth take the proposal to the states and territories through the Council of Australian Government (Coag) meeting process.

The prime minister, Tony Abbott, told reporters on Sunday that all proposals to tackle the problem of violence against women should be considered.

“We want to look at really lifting our game in eradicating the scourge of domestic violence,” he said.

On Sunday, the government announced that an extra $4m will be delivered to domestic and sexual violence hotline 1800RESPECT, representing a 30% increase in funding over two years.

“The service was facing increased demand and the government is responding to ensure we are able to assist those women who need it,” the social services minister, Scott Morrison, said. “This additional investment reflects the fact that keeping women and children safe from violence is a national priority for the Coalition government.”

Karen Willis, the executive officer of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, which runs the helpline, welcomes the funding boost.

“We’ll be able to dramatically increase our capacity,” Willis said, estimating that the extra money will pay for 12 new full-time staff and 84 extra helpline shifts.

Willis acknowledges that the number of people – overwhelmingly, women – seeking support from her organisation has increased since family violence survivor Rosie Batty’s story made headlines.

“The increase has been consistent … and demand on the [phone] line keeps going up and up and up,” she said.

But Willis said Batty’s story is not the only reason demand has gone up. She argued that there is a shift in public debate and acceptance of the prevalence of domestic violence, which means women are more willing to speak up and seek help.

“People have confidence in the system, and that’s a great outcome.”

Christine Bird from Crossroads Community Care told ABC TV on Sunday that increased demand on services should mean increased federal and state funding.

“Women’s refuges have received no increase in funding and we’ve lost many of them in New South Wales,” she said.

She said the proposal for ankle bracelets is a step forward.

Willis said it was a “good idea”, but that the effectiveness of the tracking proposal would be determined by the fine print. Applying it only to perpetrators who have gone to jail or who have a criminal record would lock out the majority of offenders.

“That’s a very small group of people we’re talking about,” she said, arguing that monitoring devices should instead be linked to perpetrators who breach protection orders.

The government has earmarked extra funding in the budget for tackling domestic violence, but will wait until a Coag advisory panel on reducing violence against women issues its proposal before allocating the money to certain programs or proposals.

“As the Treasurer stated, we have set aside additional money in the budget and we will have more to say in the near future,” the minister assisting the prime minister for women, Michaelia Cash, said.

The advisory panel, headed by former Victorian chief commissioner of police Ken Lay and Rosie Batty, is due to meet for the first time in early June.

 

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