Today it was announced that Justice Victoria Bennett of the Family Court of Australia has been appointed as an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO), for “distinguished service to the judiciary and to the law, to the improvement of the family law system and child protection, to legal education, and to improving access to justice for indigenous families.”

Justice Bennett has been involved in family law for more than 30 years, firstly as a barrister and, for the last thirteen years, as a judge. Her Honour has been influential in the development of measures in domestic and international family law and procedures for the protection of children in Australia and internationally.

“I am honoured to have received this award today. I am one of many judges who have the responsibility and privilege of making critical decisions regarding the care and wellbeing of children. I am grateful for the recognition awarded to me today in relation to the Court’s obligations to children and families within Australia and internationally,” Justice Bennett said.

Justice Bennett’s role as a Family Court judge involves making decisions that are in the best interests of children who are caught up in parental conflict following separation. In today's world it is common for parents to be located in different countries and disputes may arise regarding which parent the children will live with or visit. In cases of extreme parental conflict, a parent may take matters into their own hands and abduct a child to another country with potentially catastrophic consequences for the children and their relationship with the other parent.

Her Honour is recognised as an international expert on the application of the 1980 Abduction Convention and the 1996 Child Protection Convention and regularly speaks internationally and within Australia on those topics.

As a judge designated to the International Hague Network of Judges for the last ten years, Justice Bennett has facilitated the efficient and effective determination of many international disputes between children and those who love them.

This role (and that of other Family Court judges) is to ensure the safest return of a child to the country in which the child belongs having regard to risks such as family violence, lack of or disparity in a parent’s financial resources, potential punishment of the abducting parent and any special characteristics or needs of the child.

Justice Bennett has presented on Australia’s experience on international parental child abduction and comity in the United States, Cambodia, Singapore, Switzerland and Hong Kong. Her Honour’s views are regularly sought, formally and informally, by judicial officers or government agencies from countries which are parties to the children’s conventions and those which are considering adopting the conventions.

Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, John Pascoe AO CVO, congratulated Justice Bennett upon today’s announcement.

“This award acknowledges Justice Bennett’s work in a range of areas including her on-going and internationally recognised work as the Hague Network Judge for Australia. 

The Family Court of Australia is very well-respected internationally for its work involving the Abduction Convention and Child Protection Convention and Justice Bennett has played a significant part in developing that reputation.

On behalf of the Family Court I express our congratulations to Justice Bennett on her deserved appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia.”

Additional information:

  • Family Court representative on the Victorian Supreme Court’s Family Violence Judicial Advisory Group (implementing recommendations of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence) chaired by the Hon Marcia Neave AO and the Family Violence Taskforce chaired by Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen.
  • Justice Bennett is one of two judges designated to the International Hague Network of Judges, the other being Chief Justice, the Hon John Pascoe AC CVO.
  • Justice Bennett has also been the judicial representative for Australia within our Asian region in Malaysia (2014) and in Malta in 2009 and 2016 for the Malta Process which promotes co-operation with countries with legal systems influenced by or based upon Shari'a law, for the international protection of children and the resolution of complex, trans-frontier family conflicts.
  • Established a bilateral co-mediation program with Japan and an electronic supervised access module for use by children and the parent located in the jurisdiction from which the child has been taken.
  • Early promotor of private mediation for financial disputes by the Victorian Bar and for the use of Victoria Legal Aid’s Family Dispute Resolution Service in child related litigation. Speaks on family law at professional development and education seminars for the profession and coordinates a mentoring program for Victoria University law students.
  • Member of the Judicial Officers Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Committee Chaired by the Hon Stephen Kaye AM.

Media contact: Denise Healy, National Media and Public Affairs Manager, Family Court of Australia
Telephone: 03 8600 4357 or 0409 743 695 Emaildenise.healy@familycourt.gov.au