Date: 5 May 2022
WOMEN’S LEGAL SERVICE QUEENSLAND OUTLINES CRITICAL ISSUES FOR WOMEN’S SAFETY IN THE 2022 FEDERAL ELECTION
Ahead of the Federal Election, Women’s Legal Service Queensland (WLSQ) has identified five key issues that require action to keep women and children safe.
WLSQ is calling for:
1. Immediate action on building more social housing and increases to Centrelink entitlements so women can afford to rent and move into longer-term housing.
Family and domestic violence is the main reason women and children leave their homes in Australia (AHURI, 2021), making up 42% of Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) clients in 2020 – 2021. The main challenge facing our clients who are homeless because of domestic and family violence is the lack of pathways by which they can move on from crisis and transitional responses to secure, long-term housing.
2. Urgently redraft the Family Law Act, especially the existing presumption of “equal shared parental responsibility.”
The current Family Law Act is putting women and children at risk. WSLQ calls for immediate action on the Federal government’s reports and inquiries and the removal of the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility and any link to equal time.
Both the Joint Select Committee Report (recommendation 17) and the Australian Law Reform Commission (recommendations 4, 5, 7 and 8) have recommended that the sections in the Family Law Act which relate to “equal shared parental responsibility” be repealed and reformed urgently.
3. Increase access to justice by reducing the amount of pre-action forms required to be completed and fund the pre-action procedure process for vulnerable people.
WLSQ is calling for a dedicated streamlined Family Court process for DV victims, First Nations, CALD and people with a disability.
The current process is complex and burdensome. A client attempting to engage in a family court process needs to read a minimum of five (5) mandatory court brochures totalling 54 pages in length and prepare seven (7) forms – which have a minimum of one-hundred and four (104) pages. To do this requires safe and reliable computer access, which is simply not available for a substantial proportion of our clients.
4. Develop a new pathway for Permanent Residency to support women experiencing domestic violence on temporary visas, including women who have children who are Australian citizens.
Women on temporary visas in Australia who experience domestic violence are faced with the traumatic choice of leaving the country without their child or remaining with the perpetrator to whom their visa is linked. Leaving is often not possible as women find themselves unable to support themselves and their children without access to housing, Centrelink or Medicare.
WSLQ calls for the government to take a lead role in implementing and developing definitions of consent and sexual assault laws in Australia, particularly the introduction of affirmative consent models. Also, fully fund the implementation and development of ‘respectful relationships’ in schools, workplaces, and community education.