The government says victims of domestic violence will be better protected under changes to the family law system that has now passed parliament.

Rebecca Gredley
Australian Associated Press

Victims of domestic violence will be better protected, the government has promised, as a number of family law reforms passed both houses.

The overhaul agreed to by the lower house on Wednesday includes arming state and territory courts with the same powers in parenting matters as held by magistrates courts.

“The bill will enhance the capacity of the justice system to provide effective outcomes for vulnerable Australians experiencing family violence,” assistant minister for home affairs Alex Hawke said.

The recommended changes to the system were partially prompted by the Victorian state coroner’s findings into the death of Luke Batty, who was murdered by his father while at cricket practice in 2014.

The lower house approved amendments from the Senate to remove a provision criminalising breaches of family law injunctions made for personal protection.

The legislation also removes outdated wording which could imply husbands’ right to demand sex from their wives.

Labor MP Warren Snowdon told parliament that family violence took up one-third of Northern Territory police time, noting the higher risk Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders face of suffering from domestic violence.

Indigenous women were 32 times, and indigenous males 23 times, more likely to be hospitalised by domestic violence than non-indigenous Australians, he said.

The changes also ensure children will no longer be forced to hear details of family violence from the courts when it’s not in their best interest.

The bill removes the 21-day time limit on the revival, variation or suspension of family violence orders made by state and territory courts in family violence proceedings.

Courts will get new powers to dismiss frivolous or vexatious proceedings in domestic violence cases.

Labor MP Susan Lamb renewed calls for 10 days paid domestic violence leave, saying two-thirds of domestic violence victims were part of the workforce.

Mr Hawke said the government would consider criminal offences after weighing up a law reform commission review into the family law system, which is expected to be released next March.

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