By Gianna Huesch
It’s been announced without much fanfare recently that the Government will hold a parliamentary inquiry into “how Australia’s federal family law system can better support and protect people affected by family violence”. Attorney-General George Brandis’ new committee is tasked with making “recommendations that will improve the system for all participants”.
Not quite the Royal Commission that child advocacy groups call for (see our earlier story), but something. We haven’t yet seen a discussion relating to this new inquiry in the media; so far the mainstream media has essentially circulated the Government’s press release on the subject.
The parliamentary inquiry seeks information from individuals affected by family violence using a variety of data-gathering techniques, including an anonymous online questionnaire (open until 30 June), community statements “for individuals who wish to discuss their experiences of the treatment of family violence within the family law system with the committee”, public hearings “to gather evidence from stakeholders, including government agencies, non-government organisations, and experts in the policy area” and written submissions (accepted til 3 May).
From the terms of reference, the inquiry will consider “how the family law system can more quickly and effectively ensure the safety of people who are or may be affected by family violence, including by facilitating the early identification of and response to family violence and considering the legal and non-legal support services required to support the early identification of and response to family violence”.
The inquiry’s terms of reference indicate that the Committee will also examine “how the capacity of all family law professionals—including judges, lawyers, registrars, family dispute resolution practitioners and family report writers—can be strengthened in relation to matters concerning family violence”.
We think it’s a good thing to shine a light on these areas. Anything that puts the microscope on what is actually happening at the coalface is beneficial. But we hope that while it is conducting this inquiry, the Government doesn’t continue to withdraw funding from frontline services.
If any of our readers or clients would like to contribute their own experiences to the inquiry, please see: http://www.aph.gov.au/fvlawreform.
Do you need assistance with a family law matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other solicitors on (02) 6223 2400 for expert advice.
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