By ERWIN CHLANDA
The domestic violence conundrum in the Territory is this: On the one hand, DV is at the top of the agenda for the police. On the other, as Jacinta Price makes so dramatically clear, many perpetrators remain unpunished.
Ms Price herself gives a partial answer: Many women are simply resigned to being a victim, a fact usually overlooked when the tens of thousands of years of Indigenous culture are being touted.
These women see no way out. But it doesn’t need to be like that, says Danny Bacon, Police Assistant Commissioner for the Territory’s Southern region.
He says new measures have been put in place, and significant others are in development: Above all, “we keep going with prosecutions when there is evidence,” he says.
“We have a no drop policy. We don’t tolerate DV. It is abhorrent. We will investigate to the enth degree.” And that even includes follow-ups with victims and offenders after a court process.
This is the case even if the victim does not wish to press charges: The police can make the application to a court for a domestic violence order.
That takes the pressure off the victim, a key factor in view of the retribution and revenge by perpetrators which Ms Price so graphically describes: It can be the police that takes the perpetrator to court, not the victim, and a case can proceed even if there is no testimony from the victim, so long as other evidence is available.
There are further moves to make prosecution less stressful on the victim.
• Legislative changes are currently being considered for domestic violence evidence in chief, allowing videos recorded with “body cameras” mounted on officers’ chests. This move, which has Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s support, would make it easier to obtain statements from victims, and eliminate the need for them to repeat their distressing stories in court.
• Cross-border co-operation between the NT, SA and WA is in place and is being developed further so that a perpetrator can be tried in just one jurisdiction, not in two or three, and victims don’t need to give evidence in more courts than one.
• Commisioner Bacon says every single DV homicide over the past thee years in the NT has had alcohol involved which makes supply reductions crucial. He says the present cops-at-bottleshops system (POSI), which has led to a significant reduction in offending, will continue during the re-introduction of the Banned Drinkers’ Register (BDR), and continue parallel with it for as long as necessary: “We don’t want to stop something that’s working,” he says.
• The Family Safety Framework, trialled in Central Australia and now extended across the NT, manages support for high risk DV victims.
Commissioner Bacon says in the Southern Command there are 14 “established Remote Police Stations” with residences for officers and their families.
“These are generally for a two year tenure. Quite often officers and their families stay longer,” he says.
They are located at Ali Curung, Elliott, Avon Downs, Arlpara (Utopia), Titree, Harts Range, Yuendumu, Papunya, Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Kintore, Warrakurna (WA), Mutitjulu, Yulura and Kulgera.
In 2007 a number of stations were established as part of the Northern Territory Intervention. They have temporary accommodation facilities and officers are deployed to these stations based on “Community Needs and Operational” requirements. Officers can be deployed for only short periods of time, although depending on the officer they can remain long term.
Alpurrurulam and Willowra for example have had the same officer for over two years and Spatula for over 12 months, says Commissoner Bacon.
These seven stations are: Alpurrurulam (Lake Nash), Willowra, Nyirripi, Haast Bluff, Santa Teresa, Apatula (Finke) and Imanpa.
Clearly, the trust and relationships forged between the officers in these places, and the communities they protect, will be the key to disrupting what Ms Price calls a destructive cycle.