By Emma Younger – ABC NEWS 20 October 2015
So far today police in Australia would have dealt with on average 352 domestic violence matters
A push to end the practice of abusive ex-partners cross-examining their victims in family law cases is being launched in Federal Parliament.
Under Family Court rules, people without legal representation can cross-examine their former partner; an ordeal that victims have described as extremely traumatic.
Victorian Independent MP Cathy McGowan will introduce a private member’s motion calling on the Federal Attorney-General to amend the law to protect victims.
“Particularly women who have already experienced massive examples of domestic violence and family violence,” she said.
Ms McGowan said she was made aware of the practice by one of her constituents, “Eleanor”, after she endured the process.
“It just sounded horrendous what she’d gone through… but it’s a much bigger problem than we thought,” she said.
An ongoing survey by Women’s Legal Services Australia identified 270 women who had been through a similar ordeal since September.
Ms McGowan said her motion would give the major parties a chance to debate the issue and suggest a way forward.
Eleanor fled a sexually and physically abusive relationship with her ex-husband, but he was still allowed to cross-examine her in court.
“At the end of the day all I wanted to do was throw myself in front of the first bus, I just wanted the trauma to end,” she said.
She said the experience took months to recover from.
“If we say that it’s un-Australian to commit violence against women, then why do we have a system that puts the power back in the perpetrator’s hands?” she said.
The Productivity Commission recommended the law be changed, in a report examining access to justice last December.
Ten months on, Attorney-General George Brandis is yet to respond to the recommendation.
He said the Federal Government was continuing to look at ways to improve the system.
Ms McGowan plans to introduce a private member’s bill if the Attorney-General will not change the laws.
Support services for family and domestic violence:
- 1800 Respect national helpline ph:1800 737 732
- Women’s Crisis Line ph 1800 811 811
- Men’s Referral Service ph 1300 766 491
- Lifeline (24 hour crisis line) 131 114
- Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277