Family Law System reform and resources needed now

MEDIA STATEMENT - 13 March 2020


(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.


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 [email protected]

Family Violence Crisis Response at risk


(Canberra – 05 March 2020) More than 200,000 social and community workers, are at serious risk of losing their jobs if the Australian Government cannot provide surety for the 2012 Fair Work Commission equal renumeration order, which is due to expire in 2021.  

In the lead up to International Women’s Day (8th March) the Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia (WELA) joins a coalition of national organisations calling on the Australian Government to recognise and finalise its commitment to gender pay gap for these workers, most of whom are women. #trustthewomen #equalpay

“In 2012 the Fair Work Commission (FWC) made an equal remuneration order (ERO) for social and community workers, providing pay increases up to 45% over 8 years, to address the gender-related undervaluation,” said WELA National Convenor, Emma Davidson.

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Religious Discrimination draft bill is cruel and breaks good faith agreement with Australian women


View the Media Release PDF here.


Sydney 10th February 2020 – Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia (WEL) is disappointed that the second exposure draft of the Federal Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill includes no substantial amendments in response to Australia’s subject experts, including submissions made by WEL and many expert legal, medical and community groups.

WEL spokesperson, Dr Mary O’Sullivan, stated, “WEL has a number of key concerns about the Attorney General’s second attempt at addressing religious discrimination. Central to these is that the draft Bill fundamentally undermines advances made by Australian women since the passage of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984, together with the other Anti-Discrimination Acts at Commonwealth and state level.”

WEL’s submission on the second draft of the Bill highlights the grave risks for Australian women inherent in the Bill and calls for a significant review in consultation with subject experts.

“With the promise of preventing religious discrimination, this cruel piece of legislation will actually green light the opposite by:
• licensing and granting protection for public speech and written materials in workplaces and public life that can be denigrating, derogatory, humiliating and intimidating to women;
• permitting the introduction of faith tests and discriminatory conditions for employment in women dominated industries of education, health, aged care and religious charities. This will also further impact women in health services, as many have faith-based ownership or
management. (79% of the healthcare and social services industry workforce are women and the education and training industry has 63.4% women); and
• substantially interfering and further confusing state law on abortion, to the extent to which Australian women have a right to access reproductive health services, without any impediment,” said Dr O’Sullivan.

“Alarmingly, the Bill would allow people of one religious background to make derogatory statements about other faith communities in the name of their religious belief,”
“This also has serious implications for the very communities most in need of protection on the grounds of religion. Jewish and Muslim communities have suffered a rise in attacks in Australia,” said Dr O’Sullivan.

The WEL submission expresses strong concerns for Muslim women adopting religious and cultural dress, who already suffer disproportionate verbal and other attacks, and bear the brunt of racial and religious discrimination on top of sex discrimination.
“By imposing a new, unorthodox and intricate layer of complaints, defences and exemptions on existing Commonwealth, state and territory legislation, the Bill will further discourage women victims of discrimination from coming forward to seek justice,”’ said Dr O’Sullivan.

WEL urges the Australian Government to consider the Bill in the light of the good faith agreement with 12.9 million Australian women it is trying to advance across Government. We respectfully request that the Government rework the draft Bill to remove all of the significant impacts on
women. WEL will continue to work closely with Australia’s civil society leaders to collaborate and maintain its advocacy for all Australian women. WEL will seek a meeting with the Minister for Women, Marise Payne and the Attorney General Christian Porter address these concerns.


Media Inquiries: contact Jenny Muir to arrange media comment or interviews with Dr Mary
O’Sullivan on 0415 401 200.

Abortion Reform Realised

Dear MPs: Pass the Reproductive Healthcare Bill 2019


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Sydney – 5 August 2019 − Women’s Electoral Lobby is delighted that the NSW Parliament will begin debate on the Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019 on Tuesday 6 August and urges MPs to support its passage.

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Homelessness grows for older women aged 55+


Homelessness has grown by 31% for older women aged 55 plus

Sydney – 5 August 2019 − Dr Jane Bullen from Women’s Electoral Lobby has called on Commonwealth and State governments to respond Australia’s homelessness crisis for women, who are often invisible and amongst the poorest and most vulnerable of those experiencing homelessness, as part of National Homelessness Week (4-10th August).

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NSW Budget: Bricks and Mortar with No Heart


WEL NSW Regrets Budget of Bricks and Mortar with No Heart

(Sydney) 18 June 2019 - Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW expressed deep disappointment with the NSW State Budget, describing it as a triumph of steel and concrete over the needs of vulnerable members of the NSW community.

WEL Executive member and Violence Against Women Action Group leader, Jozefa Sobski AM, said there is little to write home about on the NSW Government’s investment levels in social services and support for struggling communities in NSW.

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Social Housing Critical to Women's Safety


(Sydney) 14 June 2019 – Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) is very concerned about the findings of recent research for the Australian Housing and Research Institute [1] on Social housing legal responses to crime and anti-social behaviour: impacts on vulnerable families, launched today.

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O’Dwyer misses the point on independent criticism

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(in response to - Kelly O’Dwyer responds to WEL’s election scorecard: ‘It’s not independent & ignores our achievements’).

O’Dwyer misses the point on independent criticism from Women’s Electoral Lobby

WEL’s 2019 Federal Election Scorecard indicates whether parties are listening to Australian women and meeting their needs.

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Federal Budget repackages, rebrands and re-announces


Federal Budget repackages, rebrands and re-announces

3 April 2019 - Women’s Electoral Lobby Australia is disillusioned with the number of missed opportunities in the 2019-2020 Federal Budget. WEL National Convenor, Ms Jozefa Sobski, noted that there were no new and significant measures to address critical issues having an impact on women in Australia.

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