ACE program aims to lower AVO breaches

ACE program coordinator Kerrianne Anderson.
ACE program coordinator Kerrianne Anderson.

AVO Compliance and Education (ACE) program facilitator Kerrianne Anderson is on a mission to stop victims and defendants breaching AVO’s with her community programs.

“The main aim of ACE is to give free information regarding the responsibilities and compliance of an AVO, to prevent breaches, therefore avoiding criminal charges and jail terms,” she said.

The program falls under the umbrella of the Rural Outreach and Support Service, promoting AVO awareness in communities.

“Rural Outreach and Support Service applied for funding through the Department of Justice Community Safety Fund, for a community initiative that involved safer communities. Our service recognised the need to break the cycle of violence,” Kerrianne said.

Kerrianne follows the court circuit that passes through Inverell, Moree, Boggabilla, Mungindi, Warialda, Bingarra and between-towns once a month, to host a community session and one-on-one workshops for defendants of AVO’s.

“The workshop participants receive a workbook as a guide. It passes on knowledge on the issuing of AVOs, court processes and answers questions that may come up over the duration of the AVO.”

Moree Plains Local Government Area was recently ranked second worst in NSW for domestic violence rates. Kerrianne suggested that the redefinition of domestic abuse could have played a factor.

“Decades ago, domestic abuse meant anything that happened within a family setting. Today, it includes anything that happens in the household. If you’re sharing a house with someone and an incident occurs, that is now considered domestic.”

She added, police officers now held the power to hand out AVO’s, without first consulting the victim: while officers were generally good deciding if a victim’s well-being was threatened, they could, at times, be too liberal with the distribution of an AVO.

“Some victims don’t want an AVO put against the defendant, for whatever reason. They might even ignore the AVO in place and visit the defendant. If they’re caught, the victims won’t be held accountable for breaching the AVO. It’ll be the defendant who is in trouble.”

Kerrianne has also noticed a growing trend, with more men coming forward to report domestic violence.

“There is this widespread perception that men cannot be harmed, that only they can harm women. But slowly people are realising that abuse can be experienced on both sides.”

Kerrianne’s next visit to Moree will be in May.