By Gianna Huesch
In what is being hailed as a landmark decision, the Senate this week passed a motion for the Government to undertake a ‘root-and-branch’ review of Australia’s family court system and potentially implement a new, non-adversarial system as recommended by a comprehensive 2003 cross-party report on the family court system.
Independent Senator for Victoria John Madigan initiated the motion, and had the cross-bench support of Senators Bob Day, Dio Wang, David Leyonhjelm, Glenn Lazarus, Jacqui Lambie and Ricky Muir, while Labor Senator Claire Moore objected to the motion, saying “there was no basis for a review of the system and that provisions were already in place to make it less adversarial.”, according to The Australian newspaper. However, the motion was agreed to without going to a vote.
The motion also called for a complete revision of the Family Law Act 1975, saying it should be simplified, shortened and based on core principles that support the long-term welfare of children, gender equality and equal parental care and responsibility, when neither parent has been proven unfit.
Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus also called for the inclusion of family court-related issues such as parental suicide and depression to be included in the review.
“This is an historic moment for all of us fighting for change in the Family Court,” Senator Madigan said. “The government is now on notice that the Senate recognises there are deep and significant problems in the Family Court that must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
The debate follows recent media coverage of deficiencies in the system, with criticisms from the Chief Judges of both the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court, as well as the Law Society of NSW, regarding the typical interminable delays in court proceedings faced by separating families and children.
Senator Madigan said, “2016 must be the year Australia fixes the Family Court.”