Open letter

A CALL TO ALL POLITICAL LEADERS TO PUT SAFETY FIRST IN FAMILY LAW 

We are writing as a group of over 90 organizations that work with and advocate for the most disadvantaged in our community. We are family violence experts, legal experts, peak bodies and state and national alliances.

Every day, across Australia, family courts are failing women and children fleeing domestic violence.

Every day, family courts are failing to recognize and respond to the risk factors present in domestic violence cases – placing the most vulnerable children in the hands of abusive parents. Without specialist domestic violence expertise and support services at family courts to identify and assess risk, these children will continue to be placed in danger.

Every day, family courts are failing women who are victims of rape, physical violence and psychological abuse by allowing them to be directly cross-examined by their abuser. Despite calls for action on this issue over many years, no government has acted to legislate to stop direct cross-examination.

Every day, the impacts of domestic violence on women and children are overlooked or minimized by family law professionals. A recent Australian Institute of Family Studies report found that 30% of parties in the family law system were never asked about safety concerns or past history of domestic violence. It’s time for all family law professionals to have comprehensive training and accreditation in domestic violence, cultural competency and working with victims of trauma.

Now is an opportunity for all political parties to commit to putting the safety of women and children first in family law.

A strong and effective family law system can be achieved with a real political commitment to implementing the reforms outlined in the Five Step Policy Platform that is attached. The platform provides a clear and practical pathway to safety for women and children.

We are not asking for another review. We are not asking for another inquiry. We are asking all political leaders to act now, to put safety first in family law.

Yours faithfully,

 

Pasanna Mutha-Merennege

National Law Reform Coordinator

Women’s Legal Services Australia

Jacqui Watt

Chief Executive Officer

No To Violence & Men’s Referral Service

Gulnara Abbasova

Director

Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia

 

Antoinette Braybrook

National Convenor

National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum

 

Jacqueline Phillips

Director of Policy

Australian Council of Social Service

Julia Hall

CEO

National Association of Community Legal Centres

Karen Willis

Executive Officer

Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia

 

Robyn Roberts

General Manager

Crossroads Network – The Salvation Army

 

Caroline Lambert

Executive Officer

YWCA Australia

 

Jane Brock

Executive Officer

Immigration Women’s Speakout Association of NSW

 

Kelly Banister

Chief Executive Officer

Australian Women’s Health Network

 

Alastair McEwin

Executive Director

Community Legal Centres NSW Inc.

 

James Farrell OAM

Director

Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services Inc.

 

Nassim Arrage

Principal Solicitor

Central Coast Community Legal Centre

 

Cate Edwards

Joint Acting Executive Officer

Federation of Community Legal Centres (Victoria) Inc

 

Jen Hargrave

Policy Officer -violence against women with disabilities

Women With Disabilities Victoria

 

Michelle O’Flynn

Director

Queensland Advocacy Incorporated

Emily Maguire

Chief Executive Officer

Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV)

Terese Edwards

Chief Executive Officer          

National Council of  Single Mothers & their Children

 

 

Rachael Bausor

CEO

WIRE Women’s Information

 

 

Maya Avdibegovic

CEO

InTouch, Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence

Julie Oberin

National Chair

WESNET

 

Fiona McLeay

CEO

Justice Connect

 

Betty Green

Co-convener

WEAVE

 

Lindy Edwards

Co-ordinator

Sera’s Women’s Shelter Inc.

 

Diane Mangan

CEO

DV Connect

 

Jillian Heeley

Principal Solicitor

Far West Community Legal Centre

 

Kate Windmill

Principal Lawyer

Gippsland Community Legal Service

 

Helen Campbell

Executive Officer

Women’s Legal Service NSW

 

Katrina Ironside

Director

IARC Immigration Advice & Rights Centre

Leeanne Robertson

Corporate Manager

Geraldton Resource Centre

Joanna Fletcher

Chief Executive Officer
Women’s Legal Service Victoria

 

Cathy Crawford

Coordinator

The women’s centre

North Queensland Combined Women’s Services Inc

 

Lisa-Maree Stevens

Director – Community Services

Mallee Family Care & Manager

Murray Mallee Community Legal Service

 

Zana Bytheway

Executive Director

Job Watch Inc

Libby Stewart

Director

Kimberley Community Legal Services Inc.

Ariel Couchman

Director

Youthlaw

 

Eleesa Johnstone

President

Nundah Community Support Group Inc.

 

Peter Noble

Executive Officer

Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre

Maree Hawken

Coordinator, Queensland Women’s Health Network & Secretariat

Women’s Health Services Alliance Queensland

Kerry Burns

CEO

Centre Against Violence

 

Cathie Nederveen

Coordinator

Mitcham Family Violence Education and Support Service

Vera Hardiman

Principal Lawyer/ Coordinator

Casey Cardinia Community Legal Service Inc

Anthony Kelly

Executive Officer

Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre

Chris Howse

Principal Solicitor

Whittlesea Community Legal Service

 

Hugh de Kretser

Executive Director.

Human Rights Law Centre

 

Helen Bolton

Chief Executive Officer

Barwon Centre Against Sexual Assault

 

Rosslyn Monro

CEO

Women’s Legal Service (Qld)

 

Glen Ludbrook

Principal Lawyer

Central Highlands Community Legal Centre

Robyn Cotterell-Jones OAM

Chief Executive Officer

Victims Support Unit

Victims of Crime Assistance League (VOCAL) Inc NSW

Carolyn Worth

Chair

Southern Melbourne Integrated Family Violence  Partnership

Renata Field

Director

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services NSW Inc.

Kristine McConnell

Manager

Orana House

 

Samantha Bettenay

Acting Principal Solicitor

Bunbury Community Legal Centre

 

Kedy Kristal

Chief Executive Officer

Patricia Giles Centre

 

Jeanette Large

CEO

Women’s Property Initiatives

 

Jenny Jackson

Chief Executive Officer

Eastern Domestic Violence Service

 

Lesley Kirkwood

Managing Solicitor on behalf of Djinda Services & Managing Solicitor

Women’s Law Centre of WA

 

Heidi Guldbaek

Coordinator

Domestic Violence Legal Workers Network (WA)

 

Helga Biro

Executive Director

Centacare Cairns

 

Gai Walker

Managing Director

SCALES Community Legal Centre

 

Diann Rodgers-Healey (PhD)

Director

Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (ACLW) Pty Ltd

Aloma Fennell

National President

The Older Women’s Network Australia Inc.

 

Silvie Calder-Hickey

Manager

Sydney City Family Relationship Centre

 

Jude Marshall

Secretary

Queensland Domestic Violence Services Network

 

Anna Cody

Associate Professor and Director,

Kingsford Legal Centre

Faculty of Law, The University of New South Wales

Associate Professor Mark Brough

Acting Head of Discipline (Social Work and Human Services) School of Public Health and Social Work at QUT

– on behalf of Academic and Professional Staff in the School of Social Work, QUT

 

Rob Andrew

Clinical Manager

Domestic Violence Services

Relationships Australia (Western Australia)

 

Vicki Johnston
Co-Chair of the Eastern Suburbs Domestic Violence Network
Louellyn Gane

Principal Solicitor

Northern Suburbs Community Legal Centre

 

Pauline van Adrichem

Principal Solicitor

Women’s Legal Service Tasmania

 

Debra Malthouse

Chief Executive Officer

Wuchopperen Health Services Ltd

 

Sienna Aguilar

NSW Member

Young Women’s Advisory Group of the Equality Rights Alliance

Hayley Grainger

Principal Solicitor

North Queensland Women’s Legal Service

Marie Coleman

National Foundation for Australian Women

 

Michael Smith

Chief Executive Officer

Eastern CLC

Vicki Johnston

Manager

The Deli Women & Children’s Centre

 

Nick Hudson

Executive Officer

Barwon Community Legal Centre

 

Michael Moore

Chief Executive Officer

Public Health Association of Australia

Anna Jones

Program Manager

Carinity Communities, Talera

Vikki Batcheler

Manager

Hedland Women’s Refuge

 

Ellysha Melville

Domestic Violence Outreach Worker

Pilbara Community Legal Service Inc.

 

Sharyn Potts

Executive Officer

Yarredi Services

 

Charles Pragnell

Executive Chairman

National Child Protection Alliance of Australia

Rosemary Larkin

Manager

Macleod Accommodation Support Service (MASS) Inc

 

Justine Clarke

General Manager

Midland Information Debt and Legal Advocacy Service Inc.

 

Carmen Hannaker- Green

UAW-ERA representative

Union of Australian Women

 

Julie Stewart

CEO

Manly Warringah Women’s Resource Centre

Sharon Large

Chief Executive Officer

Shelter Housing Action Cairns

Coalition of Women’s Domestic Violence Services South Australia 

 

The collective

Women’s House Shelta

Brisbane

 

Joanna Hayter

Chief Executive Officer

International Women’s Development Agency

Denis Nelthorpe

Executive Director

WEstjustice

 Fiona McCormack

CEO

Domestic Violence Victoria

Helen Taranto

Principal Solicitor

Macquarie Legal Centre

Jackie Galloway

Chief Executive Officer

Peninsula Community Legal Centre Inc.