Hunter domestic violence spotlight

Federal Minister Tanya Plibersek believes all law students and police trainees should read Newcastle woman Helen Cummings' book on domestic violence, Blood Vows.

At the book launch at Cooks Hill Surf Life Saving Club on Saturday, Ms Plibersek, Federal Minister for Human Services and Social Inclusion, said it helped answer one of the most vexing questions relating to domestic violence - why a woman stays.

Blood Vows recounts the six-year marriage of Helen Cummings - the daughter of the late lord mayor of Newcastle Joy Cummings - to doctor Stuart Wynter, and his later murder of his second wife and daughter, followed by his suicide.

Ms Plibersek said the book helped explain how a woman can blame herself for causing her husband's violence, how she can think no one would believe her word against his, and how a woman can be both frightened and protective of a violent husband.

"Domestic violence claims more Australian women under 45 than any other health risk, including cancer," Ms Plibersek said.

"Some men suffer domestic violence but the vast, vast majority of victims are women."

Legislative changes putting children's safety before access to both parents were necessary because children had a right to be protected from violence, she said.

The changes were a direct response to three major reports, which found current laws making access a priority were failing children.