Family Law System reform and resources needed now

MEDIA STATEMENT - 13 March 2020

FAMILY LAW SYSTEM REFORM MUST BE RESOURCED NOW TO MAKE WOMEN AND CHILDREN SAFE

(Sydney – 13 March 2020) Women’s Electoral Lobby’s (WEL) representatives will appear before the Joint Select Committee on Australia's Family Law System today to demand urgent action to reform the Family Law system, to ensure women and children are safe during and after the process of decision-making.

WEL supports the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) Family Law System Review report’s 60 recommendations given to Government in April 2019. Other recent reports on Family Law by parliamentary committees and experts working in the system, and the Women’s Legal Services, Australia five step Safety First plan provide a framework for action now.

WEL executive member, Jozefa Sobski, urged the Australian Government to get on with reforming and adequately resourcing the system because women’s and children’s lives are at risk every hour in too many communities.

“We believe the previous work of legal experts and parliamentarians offers sensible solutions to some intractable problems,” said Ms Jozefa Sobski.

“Since the Federal Government received the ALRC report, women and children have been killed, and many have been traumatised by more violence. The Family Court needs to be able to respond to the significant demand on its services, which includes playing a frontline role in addressing the deeply rooted behaviours that inform some men’s inability to self-regulate and adapt to a world of equality,” said Ms Sobski.

Recent reporting data reflects only a portion of the reality of abuse and violence women and children experience. “If women have no trust in the court system, or a dependable and safe place to retreat to rebuild their lives, then the alternatives can be life threatening and life altering.”

“We are committed to keeping a spotlight on the current fractured and siloed system which leads to women and children fleeing domestic and family violence falling through the cracks, and their high- risk situation being exacerbated by delays and decisions of the Family Court or legal advisers.

“We understand how the current under-resourced system impacts on women and children’s safety. Inadequate resourcing and the stresses on the judiciary and court, family and domestic violence support services also contributes to long delays and often leads to unsatisfactory outcomes for all parties.

“We advocate for one pathway for dealing with the complex dynamics of family law matters and therefore support a single specialist court. We want a just and fair system for all.

“We make a plea for an extension and expansion of the Family Advocacy and Support Service so that it covers remote, rural and regional Australia and relevant suburban areas.

“The dedicated professionals who service the family court system also need further support and training. We support the call for mandatory continuing professional development on domestic and family violence and its complex dynamics for all Family Law workers. This is a specialist field of law, where maintaining a mandatory minimum level of accredited training in core competencies to underpin engagement and support of highly vulnerable women and children, is a necessary requirement.” Ms Sobski said.

The solutions are well known by the Australian Government and every State and Territory government. Family Law reforms need to be delivered and supported by the appropriate level of resources.

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See WEL's Submission to the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System, December 2019 - HERE.

Media contact: WEL spokespeople Ass Prof Catherine Gander and Jozefa Sobski are available for comment by contacting, Jenny Muir wel@wel.org.au.

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