On 9 March 2017, WLA ACT held an event for International Women’s Day, with Professor Patricia Easteal AM presenting an address titled Snapshots of the Australian Legal System and Victims of Family Violence: Colliding Kaleidoscopes and the Gendered Iceberg.
In an engaging and thought-provoking presentation, Professor Easteal examined how victims of family violence interact with Australia’s legal system, with particular focus on the standard of the reasonable person at law and the limitations of this standard in the context of women subject to family violence.
Professor Easteal commented on the law’s inability to recognise ‘reasonableness’ where psychological (not physical) harm has occurred and the implications of that for victims of family violence charged with offences under the law. Professor Easteal drew on the example of an abused woman attacking her abuser without direct provocation in that instance or where the threat in that particular moment is disproportionate to the woman’s reaction. In such circumstances she argued that the law may fail to recognise the pattern of abuse and that the woman’s reaction may have been reasonable when considering the context. Instead, applying the standard of the reasonable person, the woman’s reaction may not be considered reasonable as a matter of law.
In highlighting the limitations of the current law in dealing with victims of family violence, Professor Easteal advocated for judicial activism in this space. She proposed that judges should make enquiries to establish the woman’s point of view (a ‘kaleidoscope’ view) before making any finding on what reaction was ‘reasonable’.
Professor Easteal is an academic, author, advocate and activist. She has authored 18 books (with one in preparation) and over 170 academic publications. Her research and teaching have earned her an Australian Honour ‘for service to the community, education and the law through promoting awareness and understanding of violence against women, discrimination and access to justice for minority groups’ and in 2010 she was named ACT Australian of the Year.
WLA Act would like to extend a special thank you to Farrar Gesini Dunn for their generous sponsorship of this event.