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Family Violence and the Family Law Act

The Australian Government is firm in its view that family violence is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.

The Australian Government is committed to taking action to prevent violence and abuse, and to improving the protections offered through the family law system to those affected by violence and abuse.

The Family Relationships Online website has information about services for families affected by family violence.

Budget measures

As part of the 2017-18 Budget, the Australian Government announced a number of initiatives to further improve the family law system’s response to family violence. These include:

  • $55.7 million for community legal centres, directed to front-line family law and family violence services
  • $10.7 million for the family law courts to employ additional family consultants. Family consultants are qualified social workers and psychologists who prepare family reports to inform the court about risks to family safety
  • $12.7 million to establish Parenting Management Hearings, a new forum for resolving family law disputes between self-represented litigants
  • $3.4 million to expand the national pilot program for Specialist Domestic Violence Units to six additional locations across Australia. The Specialist Domestic Violence Units provide wrap‑around legal and other support services to women who are experiencing, or at risk of, domestic and family violence
  • A comprehensive review of the family law system, to be conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission, to ensure that the family law system meets the contemporary needs of families and effectively addresses family violence and child abuse.

Proposed amendments to the Family Law Act 1975

Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Bill 2017

On 17 July 2017, the Australian Government released an exposure draft of the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Bill 2017 with an accompanying consultation paper, for public comment. The proposed amendments would address the issue of direct cross-examination of victims  by their alleged perpetrators in family law proceedings.

Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2017

On 9 December 2016, the Australian Government released an exposure draft of proposed legislative amendments to the Family Law Act to improve the family law system’s ability to protect victims.

Law, Crime and Community Safety Council Family Violence Working Group

Effectively responding to family violence and child abuse is a responsibility shared by federal, state and territory governments.

On 19 May 2017, the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council established a family violence working group, including representation from justice officials from each state and territory and the Commonwealth. The working group will progress measures to improve the interaction between the federal family law and state child protection and family violence systems. The working group is being co-led by the Commonwealth and Victoria, and is chaired by the Attorney-General’s Department.

National Domestic Violence Order Scheme

All governments are working together under the Council of Australian Governments, to implement the National Domestic Violence Order (DVO) Scheme.

The scheme will ensure the automatic recognition and enforceability of DVOs across all Australian states and territories, without the victim needing to manually register their DVO in a new jurisdiction.

All governments are working towards commencement of the scheme on 25 November 2017. The scheme will comprise model laws giving effect to the automatic national recognition and enforceability of DVOs, and a national information sharing system to share DVO information between courts and police across Australia.

National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women

The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments and released in February 2011. The National Plan is being delivered over 12 years through a series of four three-year action plans. Further information about the National Plan is available from the Department of Social Services website.

Third Action Plan

The Third Action Plan 2016-2019 is the halfway point of the National Plan. The Australian Government has provided a funding package of $100 million for the implementation of the Third Action Plan. As part of this funding package, the Attorney-General’s Department is providing funding of:

  • $6.2 million for Family Relationship Centres to deliver legally-assisted and culturally‑appropriate family dispute resolution to separating and separated families from Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds experiencing family violence
  • $18.5 million to legal aid commissions to deliver integrated duty lawyer and family violence support services in family law court registries around Australia. These services are known as ‘Family Advocacy and Support Services’.

Training for professionals working in the family law system

Improving the ability of professionals working in the family law system to understand family violence dynamics is a priority for the Commonwealth.

National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book

The Attorney-General’s Department commissioned National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book was completed in June 2017. The bench book is a national online resource for judicial officers which promotes best practice and consistency in judicial decision making in cases involving family violence. The bench book is available on the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration website.

Funding for judicial training

The Attorney-General’s Department is funding the National Judicial College of Australia to develop and deliver training for judicial officers, to increase their awareness and understanding of family violence. This training will be rolled out nationally in 2017 and 2018, and builds on the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book.

AVERT : collaborative responses in the family law system training package

The Addressing Violence Education Resources and Training (AVERT) package for trainers is designed to give professionals a sound and practical understanding of family violence and promote the safety of those involved in the family law system. The package was developed by Relationships Australia South Australia, and caters for a range of professionals working in the family law system. For more information or to get a package, visit the AVERT Family Violence website.

Evaluation of the 2012 amendments

The Attorney-General’s Department commissioned the Australia Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) to evaluate the 2012 family violence amendments to the Family Law Act 1975. The results of this evaluation were published in 2015 and are available on the AIFS website.

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