A media release issued by the Family Court of Australia on 10 October 2015 highlights comments made by Chief Justice Diana Bryant at the Judicial Conference of Australia’s colloquium held in Adelaide on Saturday 10 October, 2015. The Chief Justice’s comments focus on a call for more funding to be provided to the Family Court to more adequately address issues of family violence.
The Chief Justice’s comments came as a result of panel discussions relating to domestic violence and the role played by the Court. Fellow panellists included Rosie Batty, Chief Magistrate of South Australia, Elizabeth Bolton and Chief Magistrate of Victoria, Peter Lauritsen.
The Chief Justice thanked Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull on his recent announcement of a $100 million safety package which will be used to address issues of family violence, “…including programs that will provide a safety net for women and children at high risk of experiencing violence.”
Whilst the Government is to be commended for this package, there has been no public mention of additional funds for the courts. The Chief Justice said, “Of course, education, early intervention and the like are absolutely critical investments in our fight to eliminate family violence. But while we as a society are creating the tomorrow we want, the courts must face the today we have.”
The Chief Justice continued “It is for this reason that it is imperative for front line services assisting victims of family violence to be adequately funded, including courts dealing with family law disputes.”
The media release details that increased funding to the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court will ensure that families that are involved in family law disputes, and have experienced family violence, can be dealt with in a timely way; that issues relating to the safety of children can be quickly identified; and to ensure that there is adequate capacity to hear and determine interim arrangements pending a final hearing.
The Chief Justice identified ways funding could be applied to achieve this, including increasing the number of Family Consultants to undertake risk assessments and provide urgent reports (particularly for interim cases) and more Registrars for case management in interim hearings involving family violence. She also highlighted the need for additional funding for supervised contact centres, which currently have waiting lists of up to six months.