An apprehended violence order (AVO) is an order made by a court. It prevents one person from acting in a certain way towards another. If you are concerned that someone will commit an act of violence or harassment against you, an AVO can prevent that person from making contact with you or your property, going to your home, work or other places, or from doing specified things.
You can apply for an AVO against a family member, guardian, carer or other person in a domestic relationship with you (called an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order), or against someone other than a family member or person in a domestic relationship (called a Apprehended Personal Violence Order). Examples of when you may seek to apply for an AVO include:
Bullying – online: an AVO can prevent someone from contacting you both online as well as offline, e.g. commenting on your profile, sending messages, or tagging you in a photo.
You can seek an AVO if you fear that another person will be violent towards you, or harass, intimidate, or stalk you (including online), and if the court finds that this fear to be reasonable. An application may be made on behalf of a person under 16 years old even if they are not fearful of abuse, harassment, intimidation or stalking, if there are reasonable grounds to fear such conduct.
A court (or the Registrar in some circumstances) has the power to order an interim AVO. This can provide you with the protection given by an AVO until your next court hearing.
If you need urgent protection, senior police officers may have the power to issue a provisional Apprehended Domestic Violence Order to provide you with protection until your next court hearing.
If you are under 16, police must apply to the court on your behalf. You should contact the police to seek an AVO. You can find more information on applying through the Police here.
If you are 16 or over, you can make a private application to the court. You can find more information on applying through the court here.
A copy of the application will also be given to the person you are seeking the AVO against. You must both go to court for the AVO to be made by a magistrate or registrar.
You can find details on how the court process works here.
There is no fee for applying for an AVO. However, if you engage a lawyer to represent your application in court, you will have to pay the lawyer’s legal fees. Community Legal Centres will sometimes assist in representing AVOs without charge.
The other person must obey the orders set out in the AVO. If they do not, you should report this to the police. Breaching an AVO is a criminal offence which can be punishable by a fine or a prison term.
You can apply to the court to add or remove orders in the AVO, to shorten or extend how long the AVO will last for, and to remove the AVO. If you are under 16, police must apply on your behalf or the person applying for the AVO to be altered or removed must obtain the consent of the police to make that application.
An AVO is not a criminal charge. It will not appear on your criminal record. However, if an AVO has been made against you, and you knowingly breach one of the conditions in the AVO, this will be a criminal offence. You may have to pay a fine of up to $5,500, or be imprisoned for up to two years. When the AVO application is being heard in court, you can ask to postpone the hearing to get time to see a lawyer, agree to the AVO, or disagree to the AVO (if you disagree, the Court will hear evidence from both sides and decide whether an AVO should be made). If you do not go to court on this day, the court may make an AVO against you even though you are not present.
You can find more information on responding to an AVO application here.
If the court makes an AVO against you read it carefully. You must obey all the orders in the AVO, for the period of time stated in the AVO. You should not do something inconsistent with an AVO even if the person who the order is aimed at protecting consents to, encourages you to or asks you to do that thing. For example, if you are prohibited from communicating with a person do not answer their calls or reply to their SMS messages or else you may breach your restraining order. If the person being protected would like you to behave in a way which is inconsistent with the AVO they can seek to have it removed or changed. You can apply to the court to have the AVO withdrawn, changed or shortened.
NCYLC would like to express thanks to the law clerks and volunteers who assisted with the preparation of this material: Ray Aryal, Hayley Johnson, Jaslyn Ng, Katherine Warner.
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