Women’s Legal Services Queensland (WLSQ) is visiting federal politicians today with family violence survivor Michelle Dörendahl to outline problems with the family law system that put people in danger.
Michelle’s daughter Eeva was murdered by her father during a court approved access period. The system had failed to acknowledge and respond to the evidence of family violence.
WLSQ is calling for a federal Family and Domestic Violence Court in order to acknowledge and respond appropriately to the 50% and up to 85% of matters in the family courts that involve family violence in order to keep children safe.
Women’s Legal Services Queensland CEO Angela Lynch said: “Families are being traumatised and dangerous decisions are being made by a system that does not properly acknowledge domestic violence.
“Australia needs a federal family violence court in order to protect children from the dangerous decisions that are made when the system does not have the necessary specialisation.
“In the criminal system we have specialist courts for drug issues because we know that with a specialist approach we can get better justice outcomes. In family law we need a family violence court in order to keep children safe from violence.
“A family violence court is necessary because of a lack of domestic violence specialist expertise and resources throughout the whole system including a lack of access to legal assistance services by victims.
“We must also start implementing thorough reviews of all family violence deaths to determine the full extent to which institutional failings have contributed.
“Over 50% and up to 85% of the matters that reach a hearing in the family law court involve some form of family violence, therefore it is essential that the system is capable of identifying and dealing with complex family violence issues.
“The family law system needs to have a specialist Family and Domestic Violence Court so that cases have the necessary expertise and the safety of children and others at risk are always put first.
“The most important thing in any family law decision should be the safety of children. Until we have a system that is able to acknowledge and deal with family violence the safety of children will be put at risk.”
· You can read an open letter to all members of parliament from Michelle here
· A safer way forward for the family law system policy paper (abbreviated version here and detailed version here )