Australian cases are often very difficult because of the provisions of Section 121 of the Family Law Act, which makes disclosure an offence – further silencing victims.
No one, particularly VOCAL, would disagree with the view that the Family Court is broken and needs fixing. It needs open – not biased – understanding of what is really going on. Our clients and court support workers consistently report the ignorance and apparent bias often shown by so called ‘experts’ in cases where domestic violence and child abuse feature.
Women, who make allegations of violence or abuse about themselves or their children, are often accused of “Parental Alienation”, mental health problems, or outright deceit. Judges are prone to say, with an air of genuine mystery “Why would he give such evidence if it were not true?”
There are two reasons:
- to win
- because there is no penalty for lying: “If I can figure it out, why can’t they?”
Family Law has shown itself to be less than accurate, and probably negligent when it comes to failing to protect the safety of children, often even giving access or custody to people the children say have harmed them. Governments of all persuasions “leave it to someone else” – even as recently as August 2005 the federal government is refusing to read the research with an open mind, and saying ridiculous things like ‘we rely on the state child protection agencies’ when surely they realise that a child has to be in imminent danger of life threatening abuse to get intervention.
We have noticed that where the children are made to live with the abusive parent by court order, the pain of the non-abusive parent and family can be unbearable – basically because we believed, somewhat naively, that a child has the right to live without abuse and that Australian State and Federal Governments have strategies that support that view both here and overseas. But we have found out, by experience, that we were quite wrong. In the future, these damaged children may sue. It is also too commonly found that state based processes and services are ignored, trivialised and discounted by practitioners associated and in the Family court system.
For further information regarding change to Family Law, please visit Family Court of Australia.
Alternatively, visit our sister website www.familyandchildsafety.org.au