6 March 2009

The Family Court of Australia today launched the final piece of its suite of initiatives introduced to combat family violence.

The Attorney-General Robert McClelland formally introduced the Family Violence Best Practice Principles and commended them to the Family Court judiciary.

“The Australian Government recognises the critical importance of reducing violence directed towards women and children and is pleased to see the ongoing commitment of the Court to tackling this issue.

“I commend these Best Practice Principles to all members of the Family Court judiciary and am confident they will be of significant assistance to you in your decision making,” the Attorney-General said.

The Best Practice Principles are the last part of the Family Violence Strategy to be implemented and are the result of extensive work by a committee within the Court.

Chief Justice Diana Bryant said that the principles had been developed to provide decision makers with practical guidance when dealing with matters where family violence, or the risk of it, had been alleged.

“Family violence, or the threat of it, has devastating effects not only on the victims of the abuse but also on those who witness it.

“Sadly, in the Family Court many of those who experience or witness family violence and abuse or fear its presence, are the most vulnerable citizens – children,” she said.

The Best Practice Principles will be relevant to any dispute in which violence is alleged, even when forms usually filed to notify the court of concerns held about violence have been omitted.

While judges will still enjoy complete discretion, they will now also have the benefit of a checklist of matters that they may consider when deciding the next step in a case or making final orders.

“I cannot overstate how seriously Family Court judges take the issue of violence, actual or threatened. 

“The legislation takes a similarly strong line – where there are reasonable grounds to believe that

  • family violence or abuse has occurred or is threatened, compulsory participation in dispute resolution before filing is waived
  • a parent has engaged in violence, the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility in the Act does not apply.

"I take this opportunity to thank the Attorney-General for introducing the Best Practice Principles to the judiciary this morning", Chief Justice Bryant said.