Open letter


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


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


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


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


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


WIRE Women’s Information



Maya Avdibegovic


InTouch, Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence

Julie Oberin

National Chair



Fiona McLeay


Justice Connect


Betty Green




Lindy Edwards


Sera’s Women’s Shelter Inc.


Diane Mangan


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


IARC Immigration Advice & Rights Centre

Leeanne Robertson

Corporate Manager

Geraldton Resource Centre

Joanna Fletcher

Chief Executive Officer
Women’s Legal Service Victoria


Cathy Crawford


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


Kimberley Community Legal Services Inc.

Ariel Couchman




Eleesa Johnstone


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


Centre Against Violence


Cathie Nederveen


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


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


Southern Melbourne Integrated Family Violence  Partnership

Renata Field


Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services NSW Inc.

Kristine McConnell


Orana House


Samantha Bettenay

Acting Principal Solicitor

Bunbury Community Legal Centre


Kedy Kristal

Chief Executive Officer

Patricia Giles Centre


Jeanette Large


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


Domestic Violence Legal Workers Network (WA)


Helga Biro

Executive Director

Centacare Cairns


Gai Walker

Managing Director

SCALES Community Legal Centre


Diann Rodgers-Healey (PhD)


Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (ACLW) Pty Ltd

Aloma Fennell

National President

The Older Women’s Network Australia Inc.


Silvie Calder-Hickey


Sydney City Family Relationship Centre


Jude Marshall


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


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


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


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


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



Joanna Hayter

Chief Executive Officer

International Women’s Development Agency

Denis Nelthorpe

Executive Director


 Fiona McCormack


Domestic Violence Victoria

Helen Taranto

Principal Solicitor

Macquarie Legal Centre

Jackie Galloway

Chief Executive Officer

Peninsula Community Legal Centre Inc.