On 22 January 2018, the Minister of Justice and Community Services, Ronald Warsal, launched a pilot project to help victims of violence living in remote areas get access to justice system. The launch was witnessed by the Australian High Commissioner, Jenny Da Rin, and the acting Director General, Pacco Siri. H.E. the President of the Republic of Vanuatu, Obed Tallis, has already appointed 12 Authorised Persons, and the Minister during today’s ceremony signed the instruments of appointment of seven Registered Counsellors for a twelve-month term under the Family Protection Act. The Authorised Persons will have the power to issue temporary protection orders for victims of domestic violence. The pilot project will trial the use of Authorised Persons and Registered Counsellors under the Family Protection Act across six communities on Santo and on Efate.
Since its enactment into law in 2009, the Family Protection Act 2008 has been important in protecting victims of domestic violence through the criminalisation of all acts of domestic violence and the provision of family protection orders for victims. However, a small part of the Act – the Authorised Person and Registered Counsellor provisions – has never been implemented in Vanuatu, or indeed across the Pacific region where similar Acts exist.
Authorised Persons and Registered Counsellors are complex and sensitive roles that will place community members at the forefront of addressing domestic violence at points of crisis. Authorised Persons and Registered Counsellors are able to issue orders that last for up to 14 days. For longer orders, a victim will still need to apply to the Magistrates’ Court for a family protection order. A Registered Counsellor has appropriate training in relation to counselling in a domestic violence context and can provide counselling to victims and/or perpetrators if ordered by an Authorised Person. Authorised Persons and Registered Counsellors are volunteers and are not paid a salary for their time. The appointees are passionate individuals who are committed to advocating against domestic violence in their communities.
The Ministry is leading the piloting of these provisions in partnership with the Vanuatu Australia Policing and Justice Program, with funding from the Australian Government and UN Women. The Ministry of Justice and Community Services, the Department of Women’s Affairs, the Vanuatu Police Force, the Department of Local Authorities and the Vanuatu Women’s Centre are overseeing the pilot. The Vanuatu Police Force has given its support to trialling regular police rotations through the more remote piloting locations on Santo, providing further back-up to Authorised Persons and also increasing the police presence in these communities.
“The Ministry of Justice and Community Services is proud to be taking the final steps to full implementation of Vanuatu’s Family Protection Act and to improving justice service provision for victims of domestic violence in Vanuatu,” said Minister Warsal.
“Through this project, Australia is helping victims of violence, particularly women and children, access justice more quickly and easily,” said Australian High Commissioner Jenny Da Rin.
With the pilot, the Ministry of Justice and Community Services will be able to assess whether Authorised Persons and Registered Counsellors provide another avenue for victims to access protection, especially in more remote areas where it is difficult to get to a Court.
SOURCE: AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSION