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Separate courtplanned for domestic violence

LAUNCH: Sophie Cotsis, fourth from left, and colleagues mark International Women’s Day. Picture: Jonathan CarrollA COURT specialising in domestic violence and sexual assault will be trialled in the Hunter if Labor is elected.

Opposition spokeswoman for women Sophie Cotsis, armed with the region’s five women candidates and Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison, unveiled the party’s plans to stop domestic violence and improve support for victims in Newcastle on Sunday.

Ms Cotsis said unveiling the plans on International Women’s Day confirmed the party’s desire to prevent violence against women with policy that ‘‘catches victims at every step’’.

Labor would spend $14.5million to support women’s refuges, counselling services and programs focused on preventing violence and helping men to change their behaviour.

A Premier’s Council for Women would be set up to advise the government, and the Office of Women would again become part of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The plans would also bring stronger penalties for breaching apprehended violence orders, and protection for victims under the Anti-Discrimination Act.

Ms Cotsis said the party introduced five days’ paid domestic violence leave in 2009, and would double it to further support victims.

‘‘Domestic violence and sexual assault takes over their life psychologically, mentally, socially … We’re looking at this from a co-ordinated approach – increasing the awareness that we need to change behaviour and stop violence against women,’’ she said.

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