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Making your AVO work for you

Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders, AVO, Centrelink Crisis Payment, children, Domestic violence, Family Violence, immigration law, Parenting Orders, Police, Victims compensation

Most people find their AVOs to be highly effective in preventing violence, intimidation and harassment. You have every reason to be hopeful that the defendant to your AVO will take proper notice of your AVO, and that you will have no further trouble.

In the end, however, an AVO is an order of the court not just a piece of paper. What gives an AVO power is the strength of the law but very importantly also, the action taken by various people to support it.

These people include you. You may need to take specific action to keep your AVO useful and strong. We hope that the ideas in this booklet will help you to do this. As well, we think it’s wise to ‘be prepared’ for the possibility that you might continue to have problems with the defendant, despite the AVO, and have some suggestions for planning to be safe.

What is an Apprehended Violence Order?

An Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is an order made by a court restricting the behaviour of the person which the order is against. The purpose of an AVO is to protect you from violence and harassment in the future. An AVO usually states that a person cannot assault, harass, threaten you or go within a certain distance of your home or workplace.

An AVO is not a criminal charge but if the defendant breaches the AVO this is a criminal offence.

There are two types of Apprehended Violence Orders:

  • ADVO – Apprehended Domestic Violence Order is made where the people involved are related, living together or in a relationship, or previously in this situation.
  • APVO – Apprehended Personal Violence Order is made where the people involved are not related and do not have a domestic relationship, eg. they are neighbours.

How are AVOs enforced?

Most defendants comply with their AVOs because they recognise the power and authority of the law behind the orders. If a defendant disobeys an AVO, the order can be enforced by police action and by use of the criminal law. A breach of an AVO is a crime.

If there is evidence of a breach of an AVO the police can arrest and charge the defendant with the offence of contravening an AVO, and possibly also with other crimes (eg. assault). If convicted of the offence of breaching an AVO, a defendant may be imprisoned.

Police action may be affected by the wishes and the insistence expressed by you, the ‘protected person’ on the AVO.

If you believe there has been a breach of your AVO, and you want the defendant charged, you should make this clear to the police. In the end, however, the decision to charge a defendant rests with the police, not with you.

If the police charge the defendant, the matter will go to court as a criminal case. In the court hearing, the police prosecutor will lead the case against the defendant.

As the victim, you do not need your own solicitor. You may be asked, however, to give evidence about what happened.

What is a ‘breach’?

An AVO is breached when the defendant acts or behaves against one of the conditions in the AVO.

A breach can seem minor – especially to the defendant. But an act like sending a love note when the AVO tells the defendant ‘not to approach or contact the protected person’ is still a breach. Similarly, telephone messages or messages passed through friends can be breach of an order
‘not to harass’.

It is important to try to explain to a child who is protected by an AVO what types of behaviour by the defendant are forbidden by the AVO. Ask your child to tell you about this behaviour if it happens.

There are no ‘acceptable’ breaches allowed by the law. Any breach of an AVO, whether major or minor, is a criminal act. This will have been clearly explained to the defendant at court when the order was made.

AVOs and children

The trauma of domestic violence can have serious, short-term and long-term effects on a child’s physical and emotional well-being.

A child who has experienced domestic violence – either as a victim or as a witness – may benefit from counselling. To find an experienced counsellor for your child in your area, contact your local Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service or Family Support Service.

Intimidation of children

Under new legislation children can be included on an AVO. Even if they are not named, all AVOs state that the defendant must not “engage in conduct that intimidates any other person having a domestic relationship with the protected person”.

This provision clearly includes your children. Intimidation of your child(ren), then, would be a breach of the AVO. As well as behaviour directed towards the child particularly, the child seeing or Current NSW law states “Intimidation” is defined as conduct amounting to harassment or molestation, or the making of repeated telephone calls, or any conduct that causes a reasonable apprehension of injury to a person or to a person with whom he or she has a domestic relationship, or of violence or damage to any person or property.

A copy of the AVO should be given to the children’s school.

Separate orders for children

Orders that you need that are specific to your situation may not apply for the protection of your children. Therefore it is better for your children to have separate orders made to protect them specifically.

Only a police officer can apply for an order for a child. You need to remember to ask for these orders, if required, when speaking
with the police officer.

AVOs and family law

Many people with AVOs are also involved in disputes about parenting arrangements. The court or your advisers may suggest you try ‘family dispute
resolution’ to resolve these issues. Family dispute resolution is a form of mediation where the parents in dispute meet together with a trained facilitator to try to reach agreement on parenting issues.

Going to family dispute resolution

Mediation may not be appropriate where domestic violence is a factor because the power imbalance means any agreement may not be voluntary and uncoerced.

If you decide to go to family dispute resolution and your AVO does not include this allowance, you or the defendant should apply to the court for a variation to the AVO so that the defendant can attend family dispute resolution with you without breaching the AVO.

You should only attend family dispute resolution with an accredited practitioner.

To find an accredited family dispute resolution practitioner in your area, call the Family Relationships Advice Line on 1800 050 321 or go to

Domestic Violence victims are exempt from attending mediation. The dispute resolution service must assess whether parties with a history of domestic violence should undertake mediation. They should also have procedures in place to ensure your safety.

Special arrangements may be made such as shuttle mediation (where the parties sit in separate rooms and the mediator goes between them) or
telephone mediation, or telephone shuttle mediation (where there are two phone lines so the parties don’t have to speak directly to each other).

If these arrangements are not offered to you, ask for them.

By clicking on the following link, you can download your copy of “Just a piece of paper? Making your AVO work for you” by Maree Livermore and Southern Women’s Group Inc.

If you have any questions regarding an AVO, call the experienced lawyers at GMH Legal for a FREE consultation:

Tel: (02) 9587 0458

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