There are several pressing areas for change, but most important is surely how the system responds to family violence. While state jurisdictions have pressed ahead with reforms following processes such as the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence and the Queensland Not Now, Not Ever report, our national family law system governed by the Commonwealth has responded more slowly to growing community demand to address this scourge.
For parents who end up in the courts to resolve their parenting issues, 85 per cent report a history of emotional abuse and more than half report physical hurt from their former partner. Working in legal aid, we see this, too, with most of our family law cases involving family violence.
The flagship recommendation in the commission’s report is to consider scrapping our national family law courts altogether and working with the states and territories to merge family law into the state courts that already deal with family violence and child protection.
But, if adopted, this recommendation will take years to progress, and on its own won’t make the system safer or fairer, so quicker solutions are needed.