The pilot study was conducted primarily from March to August 2018 in the urban centre of Lae in Papua New Guinea (PNG), with the support and advice of members of the Morobe Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee. Drawing on consultations and interviews with more than 50 stakeholders and interviews with 14 women survivors, the research aimed to determine the use and efficacy of family protection orders. The study drew on de-identified client data for a period of more than three years from Femili PNG (FPNG), a non-government organisation (NGO) that provides case management and support for survivors of family and sexual violence. In addition, the district court provided statistics on orders for 2017 and 2018, a sample of police prosecution files were reviewed and the research team observed proceedings at the district court.
Family protection orders were introduced in PNG through the Family Protection Act (FPA) 2013, with the aim of improving access to justice and the protection and support for victims of domestic and family violence (DFV). Those covered by the orders include spouses, ex-spouses, immediate family members, kin and residents in a household who are treated as a family member. Short-term interim orders can be issued by the district court or by village courts, with the former responsible for the conversion to longer term orders. Reported and proven breaches are a criminal offence that can attract serious penalties, including imprisonment.
Based on Femili PNG client data, the study found that over almost four years there has been an increase in the number of Interim Protection Orders (IPOs) being issued as well as a decline in the time it takes to obtain an IPO and to convert the IPO to a longer term Protection Order (PO). On average, Femili PNG client records suggest it takes almost 16 days to obtain an IPO and 38.5 days from when the IPO was issued, to obtain a PO. District court statistics for five months in 2018 show that, on average, 19 IPO cases were completed per month and 15 POs per month.
Factors that contributed to the increase in the uptake and a more efficient process in Lae included:
» Greater understanding of the purpose and administration of the orders: following the gazettal of regulations early in 2017 and the subsequent release of guidelines by the Department of Justice and Attorney General (DJAG). Key stakeholders also received training by DJAG in various locations, including Lae.
» Increased capacity in the district court: more magistrates were appointed and with active support from a newly appointed senior provincial magistrate.
» Increased support for applicants during the process: through improved coordination and referrals among key stakeholders, with Femili PNG taking on a lead role in court advocacy. Femili PNG helps those who are assessed as being at high risk of further abuse and violence with paperwork and the court process. A comparison of 2017 data from Femili PNG and the district court suggests about half of the IPO applicants in that year were Femili PNG clients.