Women’s Legal Services Australia and Rosie Batty have called for this week’s family violence summit to address issues within the family law system that put women and children at further risk of violence.
Of particular concern is the fact that victims can still be cross examined by abusers in the system, which not only causes trauma but can impede evidence and lead to bad decisions that put children at risk.
Ms Batty has been working with Women’s Legal Services Australia to promote a 5-step plan to put safety first in family law and will attend the summit.
“I’m calling on all states and territories to help me put the cross examination of victims by abusers on the agenda at the COAG Family Violence Summit,” said Ms Batty.
“The cross examination issue is urgent and easily fixed. Women are being traumatised in the system right now and this is leading to adverse outcomes for children as well.
“There are still many issues with the family law system that put women and children in danger. But recently it’s become clear to me that this problem in particular is so urgent that we need to get focused.
“The COAG Summit is the perfect time to raise awareness of this issue. People are shocked to hear this is still going on.
Agata Wierzbowski, National Law Reform Coordinator for Women’s Legal Services Australia said:
“As the Family Law Council has stated, when people aren’t represented then family courts are less likely to get the evidence needed to keep children safe.”
“In more than half of the parenting cases that come before the family courts, one or both parties are unrepresented for some or all of the proceedings.
“Being directly questioned in court by an abusive ex-partner is not only traumatising, it can also affect the victim’s ability to give evidence clearly and accurately.
“This can prevent important information being made available to the court to protect children from violence and means dangerous decisions are being made.”
Ms Batty continued:
“Ending the cross-examination by violent ex-partners is a practical, fast step that the federal government can take immediately to empower victims to give evidence without fear. There is no reason why we can’t extend protection to victims in the family law system as an urgent priority.
“By empowering victims to give evidence without fear, courts will be able to better detect risks of violence and keep our kids safe in family law matters.”