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Family violence and child abuse are unacceptable and require a strong legislative response. The Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2017 will enhance the capacity of the justice system to provide effective outcomes for vulnerable Australians who are experiencing family violence. In particular, the Bill will strengthen the powers of courts to protect victims of family violence, and facilitate the resolution of family law matters by state and territory courts in appropriate cases. The Commonwealth, states and territories have made shared commitments under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, which sets an ambitious agenda for addressing the scourge of family violence affecting many Australians. Under Action 5.1 of the Third Action Plan of the National Plan, governments have agreed to implement supported recommendations of the Family Law Council’s 2015 and 2016 reports on Families with Complex Needs and the Intersection of the Family Law and Child Protection Systems. This Bill implements four of those recommendations. 2 The Bill also responds directly to calls for reform from Victoria’s 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence, the Australian and New South Wales Law Reform Commissions’ 2010 report: Family Violence – A National Legal Response, and the Victorian State Coroner’s 2015 findings of the inquest into the death of Luke Geoffrey Batty. This Bill demonstrates the seriousness with which the Government has taken the findings of these enquiries, and its commitment to improving how the federal, state and territory justice systems help vulnerable families.

[Increasing family law jurisdiction of state and territory courts]

The Bill will reduce the need for families to interact with multiple courts across these systems to address their legal needs. Currently, families are often required to navigate state or territory magistrates’ courts and children’s courts, and the federal family law courts. This can cause confusion, delay and prolonged exposure to risks of violence, particularly for families with complex needs such as family violence, mental health and substance abuse issues. State and territory magistrates’ courts already have a range of powers to make, vary and suspend family law orders under the Family Law Act. However, they don’t always do this, and when 3 they do, it can result in inconsistent state and federal orders. This can create uncertainty, but also increase risk, for families.

Read more about this amendment here.

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