Family violence campaigner Rosie Batty is calling for urgent family law reform ahead of a controversial parliamentary inquiry into the system.
On Wednesday, Batty launched a new five-step plan for systemic reform alongside Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA).
It comes weeks after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a new family law inquiry, with One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson set to be deputy chair.
Batty said the plan could be implemented immediately and was based on evidence and key recommendations from previous family law inquiries.
“Nearly 70 per cent of matters lodged in the family courts involve allegations of family violence, but the system is not set up to deal with this – and neither are the many professionals who work within the system,” Batty said.
“The family courts don’t have case management processes specifically designed for family violence cases, so safety risks are not being managed. This is putting women and children at grave risk.”
The plan calls for a stronger family violence response in the system, as well as more effective legal help for the most disadvantaged, and access to safe dispute resolution models.
It also says family law professionals must have a real understanding of family violence, and calls for the gaps between the family law, family violence and child protection systems to be fixed.
WLSA spokesperson Helen Matthews said women’s legal services worked on the frontline to represent family violence survivors and knew how important these changes were.
“These reforms can and should be implemented now. If the government is serious about making the family law system safe for women and children, it must act and implement our recommendations,” Matthews said.
Also on Wednesday, Batty called on Hanson to be replaced as deputy chair of the inquiry, after the senator controversially said women lied about violence to gain an advantage in family courts.
Hanson made the comments despite statistics showing just 3 per cent of fathers who went before the Family Court were refused access to their children.
“I would say that [replacing Hanson] would be a very positive gesture,” Batty said.