What family violence prevention groups are saying about the Family Law Inquiry

What family violence prevention groups are saying about the Family Law Inquiry
Linda Burney and Mark Dreyfus

Family violence prevention groups have expressed serious doubts about the integrity and sincerity of the Morrison Government’s Family Law Inquiry and its commitment to preventing family violence.

A parliamentary inquiry into the family law system delivered its report as well as 33 recommendations for reform in December 2017.

The Australian Law Reform Commission completed its Family Law System Review as recently as March 2019, which contained 60 recommendations for reform. The Government has yet to even acknowledge this report.

We know already that urgent action is needed – including more resources, increased funding for legal assistance and greater support for families.

Family violence prevention groups want to see real and urgent action.

The Government already has two detailed reports and recommendations for action in front of it, and Australians who care about these issues are perplexed as to why the Morrison Government is calling yet another inquiry.

They also want to know why Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday appointed Senator Pauline Hanson as co-chair of the inquiry just hours after she claimed that women make false allegations of domestic violence to game the family law system.

The Prime Minister needs to explain how he can reasonably expect women who have experienced the trauma of family violence, to share their experiences with an inquiry co-chaired by someone with these declared biases against them.

Women and children are dying as a result of family violence and Labor cannot support any proposal to further delay, or undermine, action on this critical issue.

The family law system is crucial to the wellbeing of many thousands of lives, especially young children. It is too important to be dealt with in this fashion

Of course, should this inquiry proceed, Labor will participate in it to ensure the voices of survivors of family violence and their advocates are properly heard.

This is why family violence prevention groups have made clear their strong concerns about this inquiry:

Rosie Batty
I have strong issues about who is heading up this inquiry … It cannot possibly be an unbiased inquiry with these two people heading it up.

Women’s Legal Services NSW
We are deeply concerned by the announcement of another parliamentary family law inquiry when the government is yet to respond to the Australia Law Reform Commission Family Law System Review recommendations. There was also a parliamentary inquiry into family law in 2017 which made many recommendations about prioritising safety.

We are concerned that victims-survivors of family violence will be reluctant to participate in this new inquiry when the co-chair to the inquiry makes comments such as reported here.

Women’s Legal Services Queensland
How will this inquiry be impartial when the co-chair says women lie about Domestic Violence for strategic advantage in the court? 50 to 85% of matters in the family courts involve DV.

One woman a week continues to be killed by her partner or ex-partner. Separation is the most dangerous time and this is exactly when DV survivors are before this court.

We accept the government may have genuinely wanted a fair inquiry however when these statements are made by the co-chair - can it truly be fair to DV victims and their kids?

White Ribbon
We support Rosie Batty in today’s statement – now is not the time for more inquiry’s, now is the time for action.

Domestic Violence Victoria
Numerous other inquiries, reviews and evidence gathering processes have already told government what reforms are required to improve the family law system as a whole, and most critically for victim-survivors of family violence including children and young people.

Mostly recently, the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 18-month review of the family law system which made 60 recommendations for reform which the government have not engaged with the sector on to date.

Coalition of Women’s Domestic Violence Services SA
If our leaders are serious about addressing violence against women, they must listen to the women’s safety experts, including women with lived experience of violence, who are very clearly saying we don’t need another inquiry.

Carrie’s Place
We are concerned that this “new inquiry” is yet another delaying tactic. This is a way in which government can ignore or delay appropriately responding to the evidence contained in the 2017 inquiry. Ever delay brings with it the risk of more women and children being harmed or being killed.

People with Disability Australia
Women and all people with disability are much more likely to experience domestic and family violence, and we need family law reform and accessible services now – we can’t wait.