Parliamentary Inquiry will not increase safety for women and children
WEL Australia is very concerned that the Government has placed another dangerous obstacle in the path of immediate reform of the family law system with this further Inquiry.
“The Prime Minister is right about the miseries caused by marriage breakdown. But sadder still is the fact that those women and children who courageously leave a violent relationship end up in a system where, in practice, a parent who is violent to their partner can be considered a bad partner, but a good parent,” said Cat Gander, Convenor for WEL’s Ending Violence Against Women’s group.
“What has happened to the sixty recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report and the previous Parliamentary inquiry? Is the Prime Minister hoping for different solutions from this Inquiry?” asked Ms Gander.
“There is surely enough evidence and testimony now to warrant reform,” said Ms Gander.
There are approximately 50,000 couples divorcing each year. 67% of those divorces involve children under 18 years. In some families, not all, shared parenting, a family law principle, does not work. This is especially so where there is a history of domestic violence or abuse. Co-parenting has sometimes unintended consequences where claims of violence are not taken seriously or the court process struggles to identify risks to children.
The Commission’s Report made sixty recommendations. They addressed some of the core issues faced by the current system. An integrated court response, more support for resolution of disputes outside the court system and more rigorous case management among other issues addressed. Importantly, the Commission made recommendations for amendments to the Family Law Act 1975.
Ms Gander was scathing about this further delay in Government decision-making affecting matters critical to women’s and children’s safety and long-term well-being. “We don’t need another inquiry. We need better protection for litigants and their children,” said Ms Gander.
“Court support services are inadequate for efficient and equitable case management. They are under-funded and hence, the expertise required to manage complex cases is simply not available when required,” said Ms Gander.
Women’s and children’s lives are placed at further risk with delays in resolution of disputes. Women faced with domestic violence and little income to flee the home situation comfortably, often find themselves homeless.
“Children are entitled to a system which secures their safety and their future development,” stressed Ms Gander.
“Domestic violence support services are underfunded and struggling to deal with the multiplicity of complex legal issues faced by women and their children. The Government is simply ignoring the evidence and looking for some other answer through this further Inquiry,” said Ms Gander.
Cat Gander – WEL Convenor for Ending Violence Against Women group.
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