Our family law team is passionate about effecting change in the family violence space. We were fortunate to have Rosie Batty as our guest speaker at the KHQ Family Violence Forum held on 8 June 2017, where Rosie highlighted the need for urgent family law reform to assist victims of family violence navigate the family law system.
Further to the call for change by Rosie Batty via the Luke Batty Foundation, and others who are active in the family violence space, a draft Family Violence Amendment (Family Violence and Cross Examination of Parties) 2017 Bill has been released for comment.
One of the main concerns regarding the court process is where a self-represented victim of family violence may, as part of a family law hearing, be exposed to direct cross-examination by their perpetrator.
This issue was identified by the federal, state and territory governments at the 2016 COAG National Summit as a key area of reform in reducing violence against women and their children.
In order to prevent what would undoubtedly be a traumatic event for any victim of family violence, this new legislation will place a ban on self-represented parties conducting direct cross-examination where one party is convicted or charged of an offence involving violence against another party. The court will also have discretion to disallow direct cross-examination in other matters where there are allegations of family violence.
In such circumstances, the Court will have the discretion to appoint a third-party intermediary to ask questions in cross examination on behalf of a party.
This is a small, but important step towards change, and to enable us to better protect victims of family violence in the court process.
Further information about the proposed amendments can be found in the public consultation paper, which can be located here.