Australia's Men's Rights Association
A Non-Profit Association Promoting Gender Equality for Men and Their Children
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5 Government Inquiries That Should Cause You Concern

1. Family Courts Violence Review (review by Professor Richard Chisholm)

The Attorney-General has commissioned a review of the practices, procedures and laws that apply in the federal family law courts in the context of family violence. The Family Courts Violence Review will consider whether improvements could be made to ensure that the federal family law courts provide the best possible support to families who have experienced or are at risk of violence. Professor Richard Chisholm has been appointed to undertake the review. The review will be completed by the end of November 2009.

Information about this project is available at:

http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf/Page/Families_FamilyCourtsViolenceReview

Family Law Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2010 - Exposure Draft

A submission can be made by emailing family courts: violencereview@ag.gov.au , or by writing to:

The Family Courts Violence Review
C/- Family Law Branch
Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department
3-5 National Circuit
BARTON ACT 2600

2. Australian Institute of Family Studies Evaluation

Information about the AIFS Evaluation is available at the following websites:

http://www.aifs.gov.au/familylawevaluation/

http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf/Page/Families_FamilyRelationshipServicesOverviewofPrograms_ResearchandEvaluation

The AIFS brochure states that AIFS can be contacted in relation to the Evaluation through the following means.

Australian Institute of Family Studies

Level 20, 485 La Trobe Street, Melbourne VIC 3000

Freecall 1800 352 275

Phone 03 9214 7888

Email familylawevaluation@aifs.gov.au

We have already tried three times to ascertain the procedure for lodging a submission with the AIFS only to be told finally by Lawrie Maloney that they would not be taking any submissions from anyone not already included on their preferred list. Maloney refused to confirm his advice in writing.

3. Family Violence Research Project

AGD has commissioned the University of South Australia, James Cook University and Monash University to investigate the impact of family violence during and after parental relationship breakdown. This research will examine the impact of family violence on separating parents’ use of family law services, and how the use of these services impacts on separating parents and their children. The study will involve surveys across four states, and will be sensitive to urban, regional and rural differences. It will also analyse the relative impact of other factors (such as socio-economic factors) on decision-making by separating parents.

The contact person is Professor Thea Brown Thea.Brown@med.monash.edu.au.

4. Shared Parental Responsibility Research Project

The Attorney General's Department has commissioned this research which will examine the impact of different care arrangements on child well-being and development and whether changes in care arrangements are associated with changes in children’s developmental outcomes and well-being. It will compare outcomes for children of parents living apart with outcomes for children who are living with both parents. The research will include consideration of the economic costs of shared care. This project will analyse three large data sets augmented with surveys and interviews with children, young people and parents. This project is being conducted by the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (SPRC) in consortium with the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the University of Sydney.

The SPRC can be contacted at:
Electronic Mail: SPRC@unsw.edu.au
Telephone: +61 2 9385 7800
Fax: +61 2 9385 7838
Post:
Social Policy Research Centre
University of New South Wales
Sydney 2052
Australia

5. ALRC to develop national legal framework to tackle family violence

(Extract from ALRC Media Release on 24 July 2009)

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) welcomed today’s announcement by the Commonwealth Attorney-General, the Hon Robert McClelland MP, of new Terms of Reference for an Inquiry to address issues concerning violence against women and their children.

The Terms of Reference ask the ALRC to focus on a number of matters, including:
the interaction in practice of State and Territory family violence and child protection laws with the Family Law Act 1975 and relevant Commonwealth, State and Territory criminal laws; and
the impact of inconsistent interpretation or application of laws in cases of sexual assault occurring in a family violence context, including rules of evidence, on victims of such violence.

ALRC President, Emeritus Professor David Weisbrot, noted that family violence remains a profound problem in Australia, and that the current legal frameworks may not be helping. “While legislation will only ever be one part of the solution, it is nevertheless an important part, and it is essential that these laws operate as effectively and consistently as possible.

“The protection of women and children is predominantly dealt with under state and territory family and domestic violence laws and child protection laws. These laws vary across the jurisdictions, which may result in women and children being subject to different levels of protection depending upon where they live. There also may be problems recognising and enforcing apprehended violence orders across state and territory borders” Professor Weisbrot said.

“Another key issue is how these laws interact with Commonwealth laws touching on family violence, such as the Family Law Act. The ALRC will explore whether the complexity of Australia’s federal system causes problems, such as inconsistent or incompatible protective orders; any duplication of effort by federal, state and territory courts; or any gaps or inadequacies in the cooperation between those courts and state and territory agencies.

“We also want to ensure that the law enables women and children to report family and domestic violence, participate in legal processes, and access appropriate remedies; as well as facilitating the rehabilitation of perpetrators and, of course, the prevention of family violence in the first place.”

Professor Weisbrot noted that this inquiry follows on from the excellent recent work of the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children, which released its National Action Plan in March, and will also build upon previous work by the ALRC. “The ALRC completed a major inquiry into domestic violence in 1984, and has also considered violence against women and children and related matters in a number of previous reports, including those focusing on the legal rights of children (1997), women’s equality before the law (1994) and uniform evidence laws (2005).”

“We will be working closely with our counterparts in NSW and around the country to ensure the adoption of an effective and truly national approach to these critical issues.”

The ALRC will now commence its program of community engagement—including through the use of its online ‘Talk to Us’ website—and will publish one or more consultation papers for community debate and feedback. The final report and recommendations are due to be provided to the Attorney-General by no later than 31 July 2010.