To Improve Family Law, Family Violence Must Be Addressed

30 May 2018

The Attorney-General’s announcement today to combine the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court falls short of addressing family violence, Terri Butler said.

“Family violence features in a high proportion of contested cases – 41%, according to former Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant, and any attempt to overhaul family law courts must acknowledge that,” she said.  

“Real change, not just administrative rearrangement, is needed to respond to this challenge.

“Cross examination reform must happen urgently. To work properly, cross-examination reform must be accompanied by legal assistance funding. That is why Labor has committed to providing more than $40 million to protect victims and survivors from being cross-examined by alleged perpetrators personally – and instead providing for both parties to be legally represented.

“The government must also address judicial resourcing and appointments. Vacancies must be filled and capacity increased. In appointing new judges, the government must address the present underrepresentation of women on the Federal Circuit Court, and must take into account experience in family law, and expertise in relation to, family violence.

“The government must take into account concerns expressed in the recent unanimous Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee report into family law and family violence, including the importance of improving arrangements in relation to family report writers.

“The government must also explain why the courts’ family violence work plan, which expired in 2016, has not yet been updated, and commit to working with the new court to ensure that the family violence best practice principles are kept up to date with contemporary understandings of family violence, informed by the evidence-base being developed under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children 2010 – 2022,” Terri Butler said.

*** If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000 ***