Research questions mandatory reporting impact on safety of NT women 

CDU Associate Professor in social work Deborah West

A new research project into the amendments to the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007(NT) and its impact on the safety of Territory women questions whether the legislation is meeting its objectives.

The project was a collaborative study between Dawn House Inc and Charles Darwin University, initiated by the NT Women’s Shelter Network after the introduction of the new Act.

CDU Associate Professor in social work Deborah West worked with the NT Women’s Shelter Network to gather information from workers in women’s shelters and domestic violence services.

“The NT is the only place in Australia where legislation has been passed making it law for everyone to report domestic violence,” Dr West said. 

“These changes, which came into effect on 18 February 2009, included mandatory reporting of domestic violence within the community by professionals and members of the general public.”

Dr West said she found that while overall it was too early in the process to be able to make assessments around the impact of the legislation, there was concern by workers about the legislation. 

“Those who work in the system appear to support the intention (reducing violence) and philosophy of the legislation (exposing domestic and family violence) but question whether the legislation is meeting these objectives,” she said.

“There was concern in the sector about the level of understanding around the changes and how this was impacting on service provision and ultimately the safety of women and children.

“Additionally, there was major concern around the impact of the legislation on the therapeutic relationship and the removal of decision-making power from the women involved.”

Dr West said that because the Act was the first of its kind, it had been developed without a research base or precedence nationally or internationally.

“Our research into the amendments is a starting point, representing the views of one stakeholder group,” she said. “It is vital to continue to gather more views of people to ensure well researched policy.”

This research was funded by the Northern Territory Research and Innovation Board and Fund.