Federal Government legislation putting the safety of women and children experiencing family violence at risk

Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA) calls on the Federal Attorney-General to prioritise the safety of women and kids affected by domestic violence in proposed reforms to the family law system.

The Federal Attorney-General today introduced in the Senate legislation aimed at significantly reforming the family law system. Under these proposed reforms, self-represented parents in Parramatta and one other location will be able to have their parenting disputes resolved through a pilot tribunal program known as “parenting management hearings”.

Parents will need special permission to have a lawyer represent them at a hearing, and the hearings will deal with complex matters involving family violence and child abuse. Decisions made at the hearings are binding on parents.

WLSA has concerns regarding how the planned changes may impact women and their children affected by domestic violence. WLSA Representative and CEO of Women’s Legal Service Queensland, Angela Lynch says:

“We know at least 50% of matters that go before the family court involve domestic violence. In these cases there is an unequal power balance. When facing her abuser in this context a woman faces a disadvantage”

“A fundamental way that victims can be protected is by having lawyers advocating for them in hearings instead of having to deal directly with their abuser.”

Ms Lynch acknowledges that with lengthy Family Court of Australia waiting periods, alternative ways of responding to these issues must be explored.

“We need to reform the family court system by putting the safety of women at the forefront of any reforms. We can see the bill goes some way to respond to the risks faced by women and children experiencing violence but also creates barriers to a fundamental protection – legal representation.”

You can read our media release in response to the announcement here

You can read the Government’s announcement here

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Greens adopt our five step Safety First in Family Law plan

In the last week we have seen the Greens announce their domestic violence policy, adopting our five step Safety First in Family Law plan in its entirety.

Our plan is supported by over 90 organisations who have signed our open letter to all major political parties and former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty who is campaigning in support of the plan.

The announcement from the Greens is a huge win for the Safety First in Family Law campaign and it increases pressure on the Prime Minister as well as the Opposition leader to step up and commit to the plan to make women and children safe in the family law system.

Read our media release here.

Will you stand with us?

You can join the campaign by emailing the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition asking them to adopt the five step road map to fix family law. We’ve put together a sample letter and some email tips, you can read them here.

Sign the Never Alone campaign petition.

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