Kids forced to spend time with abusers, lobby group's Family Court survey says
An independent anti-violence group has released a damning report on the Family Court system.
More than 600 women spoke out in the report, compiled by lobby group Backbone Collective, with more than half saying their experience of abuse wasn't believed or responded to.
It found abuse victims are more fearful for own and their children's safety after turning to the court, and co-author Deborah Mackenzie says the process is so draining it affects their health.
"Women talked about having anxiety, PTSD, being suicidal, miscarrying pregnancies, not being able to sleep, having eating disorders - all as a result of being stuck in the Family Court for many, many years."
Respondents also reported being forced into mediations and children were in some cases pushed to reluctantly spend time with their abusers, the report says.
However, after the Backbone Collective's first report in April, principal Family Court judge Laurence Ryan criticised its findings as "erroneous" and based on "flawed interpretations of, and assumptions about, the current legal framework in which the Family Court operates".
"Under the Care of Children Act 2004, judges must take into account protection from violence when considering the welfare and best interests of a child.
"There are mechanisms available to the court so parental contact orders do not force parents to meet when there has been violence between them.
"As the Principal Family Court Judge, it particularly concerns me that Family Court judges are being painted unfairly as uncaring and unprofessional and as putting people in harm’s way.
"This risks undermining public confidence in the courts and the impartial administration of justice, especially among people who may desperately need the court’s help during a distressing period of their lives.
"It is understandable that not all people who are enduring broken, painful or damaged relationships and who come to court seeking resolution or justice will go away satisfied. But a combative debate that pits the judiciary against those who rely on the court’s help, guidance and intervention is not conducive to improving outcomes, especially for children. For all these reasons, it is not appropriate for the judiciary to respond in the way the collective seeks."
The Backbone group behind the report is calling for a royal commission of inquiry.