Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services NSW submission to the Senate Inquiry into new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia

WDVCAS NSW has significant concerns around both the process and outcomes associated with the proposed Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Act 2018 (Cth) (the Act).Our concerns are thus twofold. Firstly, implementing a ‘reform’ of such magnitude three months prior to a comprehensive review of the family law systembeing finalised and recommendations being handed down does not meet required community standards for adequate consultation, consideration and due process. Secondly, as a specialist domestic and family violence service, providing support services to women navigating both local/ magistrate and family court processes, WDVCAS NSW has material concerns about the effect such a change will have on the experiences and outcomes for women and children impacted by domestic, family and sexual violence. Already, substantial numbers of submissions to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC’s) Issues Paper, and the numerous Inquiries and Reviews commissioned by the Commonwealth Government into the operation of the family law system over the past decade, have identified the need for increased specialisation of family law professionals, judicial officers, and court processes, particularly in the case of family violence and cultural competency. This change appears to represent a move in the opposite direction.

WDVCAS NSW’s submission does not intend to recanvas the issues already outlined by Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA). However, the as the representative for the primary specialist domestic and family violence service for women in NSW, and the service responsible for delivering the Family Advocacy Support Service in the major Family Courts in NSW, WDVCAS NSW lends an important voice to these concerns, and seeks to highlights a number of tangible examples of where reduced specialisation can have a substantial impact on women and children’s safety and wellbeing.

Read our full submission here.