Saturday, 25 August 2007

Qld: Staff awards recognise excellence in child protection

Staff awards recognise excellence in child protection

Child protection workers were acknowledged today at the Department of Child Safety's third annual Recognition of Excellence Awards at Parliament House.

Child Safety Minister Desley Boyle presented awards to more than 80 staff from right around Queensland for projects that covered the whole spectrum of child protection work.

"The work our staff do is not easy. They work with children who have been abused and neglected and with parents who don't - or won't - keep their children safe. They save children's lives," Ms Boyle said.

"These awards give staff some formal recognition for the very important job they do."

Ms Boyle said Child Safety staff and staff from government and community partners were asked to nominate people they thought had done exceptional work and deserved to be recognised.

There were a record 54 nominations across eight categories. There are around 80 award recipients because almost all of the winners are teams of people who have worked on new or special projects," Ms Boyle said.

"For example, we have about 50 record keeping officers - one in every Child Safety Service Centre across the State - who together are doing a tremendous job.

"They free up Child Safety Officers to work with children and make sure files on children are complete and easy to find.

"Good records can also give adults who grew up in care an idea of what they were like as a child."

Ms Boyle said most of the award winners were Child Safety staff, but some of the winning teams included people from other government agencies or community partners.

"These partnerships are really important because it is usually not one single thing that brings a child to the attention of the Child Safety department," she said.

Each category winner or team was presented with a framed certificate and a $2000 voucher for training and development.

There are an estimated 7300 children in care in Queensland and the Department of Child Safety expects to record 73,500 concerns about a child's safety or wellbeing this financial year. Of those, 33,600 are expected to be cases of suspected child abuse and neglect.

The award winners were:

• Excellence in Client / Customer Service - Record Sustainability Project by Child Safety Service Centre Record Officers.

Records Officers were appointed to all child safety service centres in January 2006 and create and manage about 5000 electronic files a month.

• Excellence in Child Protection Practice - Sunshine Coast Evolve Interagency Services led by Senior Practitioner Colin Smith

The Evolve team brings together Child Safety, Queensland Health, Disability Services and Education Queensland to work out how to best help children-in-care with significant behavioural and psychological issues or significant disability behaviour support needs. The Sunshine Coast team is working exceptionally well to support local children.

• Building Queensland's Regions - Far North Queensland Children at Risk Network

This network brings together government departments (Child Safety, Education Queensland, Queensland Police, Department of Communities, Disability Services Queensland, Queensland Health, Department of Housing and the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships) to provide support to children at risk of entering the child protection system and their families.

• Engaging and Serving Communities - True Costs of Caring project

This project reviewed the costs of caring for a foster child and resulted in the increase of the fortnightly allowance for foster carers earlier this year.

• Focussing on Our People - Manager of Asset Management Lloyd Campbell

The project is rolling out a $30million program to build 17 new offices and 30 office relocations, expansions or refurbishments across Queensland.

• Innovation and Creativity - Integrated Client Management System

The ICMS IT system is the only known computer system designed from the point of view of the child protection worker. It involved transferring more than 1.7million documents to the new system and training staff in how to use it.

• Leadership Excellence - North Queensland Zonal Leadership Team for its Five Big Ticket Items project

This team set up special committees to develop and implement strategies to face five key child protection challenges in North Queensland - rural and remote service delivery; Indigenous children; partnerships with community organisations; recruitment and communication systems.

• Partnerships and Reconciliation - Ipswich and Western Zone Community and Support Team

Staff worked with Indigenous organisations (Mereki in Toowoomba, Children of the Dreaming in Ipswich and WICA in St George) to build their capacity to provide cultural advice on Indigenous children in care.

Source: Ministerial Media Release

News from America: renowned psychologist commits suicide, possibly re-opening recommendations

The Seattle Times reports that renowned US psychologist Stuart Greenberg has committed suicide, leading to the possible re-opening of his many custody evaluations.

He did so after it was alleged that an acquaintance had stumbled on a videotape of a wman being secretly filmed in Greenberg's office toilet, leading to Greenberg's arrest.

Greenberg was no ordinary psychologist. As well as undertaking many custody evaluations over the years and assisting the Seattle Archdiocese in dealing with sexual abuse cases,

"Greenberg had developed a national reputation, as well. His curriculum vitae, listing all his professional accomplishments, runs 19 pages.


"Among other things, he served as president of the American Board of Forensic Psychology in 2002-2003 and taught dozens of continuing-education courses across the country for fellow psychologists.

"He also trained a crop of would-be psychologists as a clinical assistant professor at the University of Washington, and before that at the University of Southern California and the University of Iowa."

Difference between anger management and perpetrators of violence

It is sometimes mistakenly assumed that those who commit domestic violence towards their partners do so because they are angry. The reality is that most of the time those who commit acts of domestic violence do so to control their partners- and it usually when their partners do not accept that they ought to be controlled that the violence is perpetrated.

There is often a common mistake that whilst violence might be perpetrated in anger, that anger is the cause. The mistake is overlooking or forgetting that the key to domestic violence is the issue of control.

This mistake is then continued when it is suggested that a perpetrator of domestic violence has an "anger" problem, without recognising that it is not an anger problem per se, but more a problem with controlling and dominating others and, sad to say, often by men who view women as less than equal. To then require these men to undertake an anger management course without dealing with the fundamental of their perpetrating violence means that the underlying issue of control is not dealt with but worse- it then enables them to say that it was only an anger problem, not that of violence and control, therefore not holding them to account, and enabling them to say "I'm cured".

For an academic paper on this issue,


click here.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Report on Brisbane transfers from Family Court to Federal Magistrates Court

Federal Magistrate Michael Baumann has recently written to the legal profession about a Family Court callover which was used to identify many outstanding matters in Brisbane, many of which were transferred to the Federal Magistrtates Court:

Dear Geoff (Family Law Section); Julie (QLS) and Nicky (FLPA),



With the approval of the CFM I provide each of you with a brief report on the effect of the Joint callover from this Court's perspective. You may circulate this to members of your organisations as, and if, you wish to do so.



"During the week of 19 February 2007, a joint callover was conducted in Brisbane of matters identified by the FCofA, as part of their pending trial list. Over 300 matters were identified as appropriate for the callover and at the completion of the callover, 170 matters had been transferred to the FMCofA for further determination.



Upon review by this Court, not all matters transferred were ready for or needed a final hearing immediately, however of the 170 matters transferred, 106 matters (62%) were finalised by 30 June 2007 - or within 4 months of transfer. It is anticipated that the remaining 64 matters transferred via the callover will be finalised by 31 December 2007 - with 50% completed by 31 August 2007 or within 6 months of transfer.



The 170 matters transferred via the joint callover were additional to a further 735 matters transferred to the FMCofA by the FCofA in the Brisbane registry for the 12 months ended 30 June 2007"



regards,
Michael Baumann FM”

Launch of ParentSupport Service in Fremantle: Minister

The protection of children in the Fremantle area has been boosted with the launch of the South Metropolitan ParentSupport Service.

WA Child Protection Minister Sue Ellery launched the service which promotes effective parenting as a key factor in preventing crime and harm to children.

ParentSupport is the service delivery arm of the State Government’s Responsible Parenting Initiative, which was introduced three years ago to address growing community concerns about anti-social and criminal behaviour displayed by young children. Some of these behaviours include truancy, bullying, vandalism, violence, fire setting, theft and drug use.

Ms Ellery said there were many factors influencing a child’s development and their parents’ capacity to parent effectively.

“There is now clear evidence to show that poor and inconsistent parenting contributes to the development of child behaviour problems,” she said.

“Effective parenting includes nurturing, protecting, teaching and supporting children as they grow and learn how to behave and relate to others in the wider community.

“Children don’t come with a ‘how-to’ manual. ParentSupport is an evidenced based service designed to assist families gain these vital parenting skills.”

ParentSupport provides parents who are experiencing difficulty with the skills to manage their children’s behaviour and provides a safe and encouraging environment. Skilled caseworkers work collaboratively with parents and other specialist agencies to help parents.

The service has also developed an intervention model to meet the needs of ‘hard to reach’ parents with health or mental issues or those reluctant to engage with a support service.

ParentSupport Services have already helped more than 350 families in the east and south-east metropolitan region in the past two and a half years with 91 per cent reporting they are now parenting more effectively.

The State Government has committed $20.4million over four years to implement ParentSupport services State-wide.

Services in the south metropolitan police district started in July 2007 and will be phased into the north metropolitan region, including Stirling, Bayswater, Wanneroo and Joondalup, early next year. A remote service delivery model will begin in the Kimberley early next year.

Source: Ministerial Media Release

Women and children in Fremantle will benefit from a new agreement to combat family and domestic violence: Minister

WA Communities Minister Sue Ellery yesterday launched the Family and Domestic Violence Alliance, Fremantle (FADVA Fremantle) Inter-Agency Protocol, which supports a new way of working to help both victims and perpetrators of violence in the home.

“The alliance aims to better support victims and increase the accountability of perpetrators by bringing together the expertise, experience and resources from different agencies working in this complex area,” Ms Ellery said.

“The focus on interagency co-operation will ensure that safety and response standards are maintained and provided consistently across the area.

“The FADVA Fremantle model will strengthen the links between Government and non-government agencies so that they can work together to provide support, advocacy and legal assistance to people affected by domestic violence.”

FADVA Fremantle is one of the first models to be developed as part of the State Government’s commitment of more than $940,000 a year for co-ordinated responses to domestic violence.

Fremantle Mayor Peter Tagliaferri said the City of Fremantle was committed to providing and improving services to combat family and domestic violence.

“We have been the service provider for the Warrawee Women’s Refuge for more than 35 years and for the Fremantle Community Legal and Advocacy Centre since 1993,” Mr Tagliaferri said.

“In addition, we have given ongoing support to the creation of this Family and Domestic Violence Alliance since the inception of the Regional Domestic Violence Committees in 1997.

“We now look forward to providing ongoing support to cement a strong partnership between the agencies that form the alliance, with the ultimate aim of improving the safety of women and children who are at risk.”

Source: Ministerial Media Release

Using passports to make sure child support arrears are paid

It used to be the case that if you wanted to stop someone leaving the country who owed lots of money for their children, you had to go to court and obtain an injunction. This rare procedure was expensive.

More recently, powers have been given to the Child Support Agency to prevent defaulters from leaving Australia by cancelling their ability to leave until payment of the arrears has been made. Little has been heard of the impact in Australia, but recently the US State Department has been cancelling passports in that country when the arrears are only $2500.

This has had dramatic results- see article.

HELP! 37,000 BABIES AT RISK EACH YEAR

This report from the Brotherhood of St Laurence has found that an
estimated 37,000 babies each year are being born into the 21 most
disadvantaged communities in Australia. The report finds that the
higher the poverty rate per electorate, the higher the birth rate.
This means that more Australian children are being born in areas of
social disadvantage. The explanation for this phenomenon is not an
increase in birth rates in disadvantaged electorates, but rather a
reduction in birth rates in more affluent electorates.

Disclosure: "Show and tell" not "hide and seek"

In a recent case, Kennedy and McDermott, Federal Magistrate Lucev dealt with an interim application for the father to make formal discovery on a child support application.

In dealing with the obligation to make disclosure, his Honour said:

"Put succinctly, as it often is by Counsel, the obligation is to "show and tell" not "hide and seek."

New case- when going to court, remember to tell the truth

In the recent case of Ashman and Ashman, Federal Magistrate Baumann sets out a well thought out judgment in a property settlement when not all was as it seemed.

The judgment starts: "When the Applicant wife Gladys Ashman and the Respondent husband Frank Ashman commenced cohabitation in June 1992, the husband gave all the appearance of a financially comfortable businessman. The wife, a widow and prior resident of the United States of America, came to Australia to pursue her relationship with the husband, having met him in 1991 initially whilst travelling."

What the husband had done was to say in these proceedings that he had come into the marriage with a significant initial contribution of $264,000, but had forgotten about what he had told the Family Court during the previous property settlement with his former wife.

His Honour stated:

The value of the husband’s business interests at the time, as claimed now, are in stark contrast to what he swore the position to be in earlier Court proceedings conducted in the Family Court of Australia in 1993. Exhibit 3 comprises copies of an Application and Statement of Financial Circumstances containing information sworn to as accurate by the husband on 19 July 1993 and 5 August 1993 respectively. The contents were properly put to the husband in cross examination and his reaction showed significant surprise and uncertainty. Put shortly, what he deposed as the extent of assets at the time of his first property settlement is quite different from what he deposes to... now.


It would appear that what he actually owned in 1993 was a car worth $55,000 and a new business created out of the "embers" of the old, and presumably worth very little.

It pays to be honest!

Change of name: US case when mother had affair

One of the difficult issues that the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Courts are asked to deal with are tussles about the names of children when the surnames of mums and dads are different.

There have been a series of cases which set out factors that are taken into account, such as the child's ongoing relationship to the father and what impact the change of name away from the father's surname will have on the child's self-identity.

A US court has recently dealt with the unusual situation of a mother, who remained married, but had a child by the man with whom she had an affair.

Family Law Prof Blog summarises the case:

The Supreme Court of South Dakota in a 3-2 ruling has held that a girl conceived when her mother had an affair must keep the last name of her mother's husband, overruling the trial court order that had changed the child's name to that of her biological father. The child's mother reconciled with her husband before the child was born and her husband's name was on the child's birth certificate. The majority found that the daughter, now 3, should have the same last name as everyone else in the home in which she lives.

The Supreme Court majority said it is in the child's best interest to keep the same last name as that of her mother, stepfather and half-sister. "It makes no sense to change her name after two years to her natural father's name," Justice Richard Sabers wrote for the court majority. "From the standpoint of her best interest, her name should remain the same as her family unit because she socializes with them, will go to school with them and live with them the majority of the time. Why should she be unnecessarily required to explain why her surname is different from her family unit in all these circumstances?" The majority opinion said the circuit judge placed too much importance on the possibility that the girl's mother and stepfather might get divorced. Tiede also disregarded testimony that indicated the relationship was improving among the mother, biological father and stepfather, the justices said.

The two dissenting justices would have given deference to the trial judge. The trial judge had concluded that not allowing the name change might lead to estrangement with the biological father, who had visitation rights with the child for the past two years. "With the high divorce rate and increased numbers of blended families, it is not unusual for a child to have a different surname than the child's mother or half-siblings," Justice Judith Meierhenry wrote. Justice Steve Zinter also dissented, saying he believes the court majority mistakenly focused on only one factor whereas most name change cases focus on a variety of factors.

Getting evidence

Often when people come tome and tell me about their domestic dramas, they then despair when they say: "No one will believe me. I don't have anyone who really knows what happened."

I then go through whether there are any witnesses or any documents or electronic records that might help.

It is amazing as to the kinds of records that might exist. Often it may be impossible to get these through by asking or through Freedom of Information, but they may be available by use of a subpoena. Of course a subpoena (which is like a form of order from the court) can only be issued when proceedings have started, and there may be restrictions on when or how often a subpoena can issue.

The types of records that can exist include:
-doctor's records
-records of child welfare authorities, such as the Department of Child Safety
-police records- such as criminal histories, details about crime reports and domestic violence histories
-bank accounts, and sometimes original cheques and withdrawal records from banks
-gambling records from casinos. There are few things more shocking as a practitioner to receive a copy of a subpoena from the other lawyer about your client's gambling history, when your client didn't bother to tell you about any gambling.
-HR files- these may be relevant as to workhours or if complaints have been made because the person was abusive at work.

Then there are the less thought of records:
- sometimes one party, but not the other, can ask for records, eg under Freedom of Information from Centrelink. Sometimes an opponent can be forced to make that application, such as when they say the parties lived together- at the same time that person was getting Centrelink payments as a single parent.
-electronic records that records where a person was at certain times. In one case I had many years ago, my client was a goner except that I had issued a subpoena after she told me that her ex worked weird and wonderful hours (at the same time that he said that he was caring for the children) and had an electronic key for work. The records produced put the lie to his suggestion that he was caring for the children at those times. They saved her bacon.

Because they can be such a powerful weapon, there are restrictions on the use of subpoenas, such as ensuring that whatever is asked for is relevant, that the subpoena is not oppressive and that it is not used for an improper purpose, eg to harass a witness.

Having said that, the use of this information can often mean the difference between success and failure.

Judge arrested for domestic violence: SA

The Australian has reported that South Australian District Court judge Sydney Tilmouth has been suspended from hearing criminal cases, as he was arrested and charged on Saturday night with aggravated assault “arising out of a report of a domestic disturbance”.



The Australian also says that the assault charge is “aggravated” if the alleged violence involved a child, a police officer or a weapon.



The case would be sent to a fellow District Court judge if the alleged assault involved serious injury to the victim, otherwise would be heard in a Magistrates Court.



From all reports, Judge Tilmouth has had to date a distinguished legal career, including being credited with setting up the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, in the 1970’s.

Children's obesity rates in Australia: eMJA

The e Medical Journal of Australia has published the following letter:

Childhood overweight and obesity by Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas

Mu Li, Karen Byth and Creswell J Eastman
MJA 2007; 187 (3): 195

To the Editor: Childhood overweight and obesity have become a major public health concern in Australia. Between July 2003 and December 2004, we conducted the Australian National Iodine Nutrition Study (NINS) among schoolchildren.1 While visiting primary schools across Australia, we observed that many children were overweight or obese. The NINS data allowed us to estimate the prevalence of overweight and obesity among 8–10-year-old Australian schoolchildren, and to determine whether the prevalence was associated with socioeconomic background.
The study population comprised a one-stage random-cluster sample from all Year 4 school classes in 92 government and non-government schools.1

Children were aged 8–10 years (mean, 9.3 years). Height and weight were measured by standard techniques and were used to calculate body mass index. Overweight and obesity were identified using international standard definitions.2 Socioeconomic status was defined by the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Advantage/Disadvantage of the Census of Population and Housing’s Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (postal areas).3 This index is a continuum of advantage to disadvantage. A higher score indicates that an area has a relatively higher proportion of people with higher incomes or a skilled workforce.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in 8–10-year-old schoolchildren was 18.5% and 6.5%, respectively. There was no significant sex difference in prevalence and no significant evidence of an association between socioeconomic status and overweight or obesity (Box).

The prevalence of overweight and obesity combined and of obesity alone was similar to previously reported prevalence,4,5 although the age range of the participants was more limited than in other studies. We minimised measurement error bias by using the same equipment throughout, in the same setting. Furthermore, most measurements were taken by the same person. We could not demonstrate an association between socioeconomic status and the prevalence of overweight and obesity combined, or of obesity alone. This suggests that childhood overweight and obesity is common to all Australian communities, irrespective of socioeconomic background.

Preventing overweight and obesity in children may reduce the risk of adult overweight and obesity and related diseases. Regular monitoring and surveillance of the situation is needed. Australia is one of the first countries in the world to develop a national strategy for overweight and obesity.6 However, the strategy needs to be communicated to the wider community and turned into action to combat this public health problem.

Proportion (number) of boys and girls categorised as overweight or obese by index of advantage/disadvantage*

SEIFA percentile

Not overweight or obese

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Overweight

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Obese

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

n
Overall
Boys
Girls
Overall
Boys
Girls
Overall
Boys
Girls


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lowest 10
130
79% (102)
77% (56)
82% (46)
12% (16)
12% (9)
13% (7)
9% (11)
11% (8)
5% (3)

10–25
286
72% (207)
72% (103)
73% (103)
22% (64)
22% (31)
23% (33)
5% (15)
6% (9)
4% (6)

25–50
210
74% (156)
72% (72)
76% (84)
17% (35)
18% (18)
16% (17)
9% (19)
10% (10)
8% (9)

50–75
505
75% (379)
72% (183)
79% (195)
19% (98)
21% (53)
18% (45)
6% (28)
8% (20)
3% (8)

75–90
427
75% (319)
78% (179)
71% (140)
18% (78)
17% (39)
20% (39)
7% (30)
6% (13)
9% (17)

Highest 10
225
77% (174)
79% (84)
76% (89)
17% (39)
16% (17)
19% (22)
5% (12)
6% (6)
5% (6)

Total
1782
75.0% (1337)
74.4% (677)
75.6% (657)
18.5% (330)
18.4% (167)
18.8% (163)
6.5% (115)
7.3% (66)
5.6% (49)


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* Overall χ2 = 11.42, P = 0.33; Boys χ2 = 8.73, P = 0.56; Girls χ2 = 12.36, P = 0.26. SEIFA = Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (a higher score corresponds to higher socioeconomic status).


Acknowledgements: We thank all who contributed to the Australian National Iodine Nutrition Study.
Mu Li, Senior Lecturer1
Karen Byth, Biostatistician2
Creswell J Eastman, Professor1
1 School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
2 Westmead Millennium Institute, Sydney, NSW.
muliAThealth.usyd.edu.au
Li M, Eastman CJ, Waite KV, et al. Are Australians iodine deficient? Results of the Australian National Iodine Nutrition Study. Med J Aust 2006; 184: 165-169.
Cole TJ, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM, Dietz WH. Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey. BMJ 2000; 320: 1240-1243.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. Information paper. Census of Population and Housing. Socio-economic indexes for areas, Australia, 2001. Canberra: ABS, 2003. http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/free.nsf/0/AFF5E8542B58B94ECA256DD5007A3DF8/$File/20390_2001.pdf (accessed Aug 2007)
Booth ML, Wake M, Armstrong T, et al. The epidemiology of overweight and obesity among Australian children and adolescents, 1995-1997. Aust N Z J Public Health 2001; 25: 162-169.
Magarey AM, Daniels LA, Boulton TJC. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australian children and adolescents: reassessment of 1985 and 1995 data against new standard international definitions. Med J Aust 2001; 174: 561-564.
Baur LA. Obesity: definitely a growing concern [editorial]. Med J Aust 2001; 174: 553-554.

MP wants lie detectors in Family Court

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that an MP has called for compulsory lie detector tests for parents facing the Family Law Court.

South Australian independent MP Ann Bressington says current family law is a divisive "cash cow" that harms those it aims to protect - children.

For the full article,
click here.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

In a recent Federal Court case, Mr Yacoub sought to rely on the existence of an apprehended violence order in favour of his wife (against her former husband) as "compelling reasons" so that he could be granted a visa to stay in Australia.

The Federal Court rejected his application:
At its highest, the AVO represented a conclusion by the Fairfield Local Court that, on the balance of probabilities, the Sponsor [wife] had reasonable grounds to fear, and in fact feared, commission by her former husband of a personal violence offence against her. It also signified that the Local Court concluded that an AVO should remain in force for two years to ensure the protection of the Sponsor from that threat of violence. The Visa Applicant’s contention is that there is inconsistency between those conclusions by the Local Court and the Tribunal’s conclusion that, as at the date of the Visa Applicant’s application, the Sponsor was no longer experiencing the problems associated with her former husband.

However, there is no inconsistency between those conclusions. The Sponsor has experienced no violence from her former husband since the making of the AVO. Thus, it was open to the Tribunal to proceed on the basis that the AVO appeared to have been effective, at least up to the time of the hearing before the Tribunal, in achieving the object of the Crimes Act in reducing or preventing violence between the Sponsor and her former husband. The Tribunal’s conclusion that the Sponsor was no longer experiencing problems associated with her former husband is an acceptance, in effect, that the AVO was effective to achieve its object. Having concluded that there was no longer a problem associated with the former husband, the Tribunal concluded that the prospect of violence was not a compelling reason for waiving the Schedule 3 criteria in relation to the Visa Applicant.

The suggestion that the conclusion reached by the Tribunal was in some way inconsistent with the making of the AVO by the Local Court appears to involve some misapprehension. The object of the AVO was to prevent violence. The Tribunal appears to have accepted that it had that effect. The Tribunal recognised that it had that effect by concluding that violence from the Sponsor’s former husband was no longer a problem for the Sponsor.

Clearly, the Tribunal had regard to the fact that the AVO had been made and that the two year period of its currency had not expired at the time when the Visa Applicant lodged his application for a Class UK Visa. Whether or not the existence of the AVO was a consideration that it was necessary for the Tribunal to take into account, it did in fact take into account the existence of the AVO and the fact that it was still current.



For the judgment click here.

Restrictions in relying on DV to stay in Australia: Court

The Federal Court has recently highlighted the requirement under the Migration Regulations that for someone to seek to stay here on the basis of domestic violence, there must be statutory declarations from the relevant experts "stating" that in their opinion that the person has suffered domestic violence. Anything less than "stating" is not enough.

It is not sufficient for the competent person to state that the victim’s presentation is consistent with the claim of domestic violence.... Nor is it sufficient to state that the alleged victim may have, or appears to have, suffered domestic violence..... Similarly it is not sufficient for the competent person merely to recite the possession of an opinion that the alleged victim has suffered domestic violence..... Ultimately the regulation requires that the competent person must state that in his or her opinion, "relevant domestic violence ... has been suffered". It must be apparent from the declaration that the competent person attributes the same meaning to "domestic violence" as reg 1.23(2)(b) although, in our view, it is not necessary for the declarant to refer to that definition.


See Minister for Immigration & Citizenship v Ejueyitsi.
A new article by Jenny Mouzos and Lance Smith, "Partner violence among a smaple of police detainees questions the long held view, at least in this sample, that domestic violence is necessarily gendered:

"In finding that gender was not a factor in involvement in partner violence for police detainees, it suggests that the development of intervention or prevention policies for police detainees needs to view intimate partner violence as not necessarily involving female victims and male perpetrators, but rather couples who engage in violent acts towards each other.

The finding that having dependent children at home increased the risk of detainee involvement in partner violence is significant because it not only has implications for those engaged in the partner violence, but also the children who may be witnessing the violence. While witnessing violence as a child was not a significant risk marker in the current study, the fact that much prior research has found a link (for partner violence in general) cannot be discounted (see Indermaur 2001).

In conclusion, the data showed that a large percentage of the detainees coming into contact with police were involved in intimate partner violence. Associated risk markers were drug and alcohol dependency, prior offending, and intergenerational experiences of violence. This suggests that there are differing levels of intervention required to address the issues of violence and drug use for persons who come into contact with the criminal justice system."

See the article here.

Vic: More police DV powers

MORE POLICE POWERS TO PROTECT FAMILY VIOLENCE VICTIMS 19/7/07

Police will be able to issue interim, on-the-spot safety notices under a trial program to provide quicker and more decisive protection for the victims of family violence, the Premier, Steve Bracks, announced today.
Mr Bracks said the new system would give victims more security at night and on weekends when most incidents occur. Breaching a safety notice will be a criminal offence punishable by up to two years’ jail or up to a $26,428.80 fine, or both.

“It is crucial that police have adequate tools to respond to family violence quickly and decisively at times when courts are not open,” Mr Bracks said.

“The safety notices will make it easier for police to remove alleged offenders from the family home and prevent them from contacting victims until a court can hear the matter.

“This is a faster, more effective way of sending the clear message to alleged offenders that action will be swift and decisive when police arrive at the front door.”

The Department of Justice will consult with stakeholders on the detail of the trial, which is expected to get underway by mid-2008.

The Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, said that while the police and courts could already act to protect victims after-hours, safety notices would further improve the system by focusing on the victims’ needs and streamlining processes between the Victorian Police and the Courts.

“Following on a review and recommendations from the Victorian Law Reform commission, the Magistrates’ Court, Victoria Police and the Department of Justice have worked closely together to construct a system that best addresses victims’ safety needs after hours,” Mr Hulls said.

“Safety notices will make it easier for police to act quickly, decisively and efficiently to protect victims of family violence, while at the same time retaining the important role of the courts in overseeing a fair system to all parties involved.”

Under the trial, the notices will only be available outside court sitting hours, and set down conditions that alleged offenders must comply with until a matter is heard in court.

Police officers attending incidents can apply for the notices, which can be authorised by a police sergeant or higher-ranked officer. The matter must then come before a court within 72 hours of the notice being issued.

The Court will still maintain its after hours registry with a magistrate on duty if required. Courts will still be able to issue interim intervention orders and warrants to arrest after-hours if the circumstances require it.

The Minister for Police, Bob Cameron, said the safety notices equipped police with unprecedented powers to protect Victorians from family violence.

“The safety notices will make it easier for police to intervene and keep a violent person away from their victim when courts are not open to grant such an order,” Mr Cameron said.

“This has never been done before in Victoria and police command will rigorously train sergeants, higher-ranked officers and police who attend incidents on how to correctly issue safety notices.

“Police will document the precise reasons behind any decision to issue the notice, and explain the instructions to the alleged offender, using an interpreter if necessary.”

The safety notices trial system will be evaluated after 12 months in consultation with stakeholders and the community.

The initiative is part of the Bracks Government’s commitment to tackling family violence, including court-based specialist family violence services and specialist family violence courts.

“No socio-economic, geographical, cultural or religious groups are immune from the scourge of family violence,” Mr Bracks said.

“It affects one in five women and is a leading contributor to death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15 to 44.

“The message has to be loud and clear that family violence will not be tolerated in this state.”


Source: Ministerial Media Release

Family, more than genes, determines divorce rate: Aust research

Australian researchers have conducted research on twins that indicates that family more than genes is more indicative of divorce rates, according to an article in Forbes magazine.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Greece may recognise Australian family law orders

AUSTRALIA AND GREECE WORK TOGETHER ON RECOGNITION OF FAMILY LAW ORDERS
The Australian Government will work with Greece towards introducing mutual recognition of family law orders, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has announced.

"An agreement with Greece would ensure that divorce certificates and family law orders regarding children would be recognised in the courts of both countries," Mr Ruddock said.
Australia and Greece are to set-up a joint working party to explore ways to introduce recognition of family law orders between the two countries.
"With 125,000 Greek-born people living in Australia and extensive migration from Greece during the 1950s and 1960s, an agreement with Greece would help the two countries continue to enjoy a close cultural relationship," Mr Ruddock said.
The need for a mutual agreement was discussed between Prime Minister John Howard and Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis during his visit to Canberra on 23 May 2007.

More FRC's launched

Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock has launched a further 25 Family Relationship Centres.

“These Centres provide information to families who want to make their relationships stronger or who are having relationship difficulties, as well as referring them to other services that can help. The Centres also provide dispute resolution services for families undergoing separation and needing assistance in resolving parenting arrangements’.”
“Fifteen Centres opened in July last year, and over the past year have proven themselves to be valuable community assets. I welcome today’s opening of the additional 25 Centres.”
The Family Relationship Centres are the cornerstone of the Howard Government’s $397 million reforms to family law- the biggest ever investment in the family law system. The reforms are the most significant in 30 years and are aimed at helping families deal co-operatively and practically with relationship difficulties and separations. The reforms ensure family law puts children first.
To the end of May this year the 15 Family Relationship Centres already established by the Howard Government managed a total of 44,277 phone calls and 9151 walk-ins; 16,197 interviews and intake sessions and 6493 dispute resolution sessions.
“This success has been driven by the professionalism of the organisations operating the Centres and the highly skilled staff that are helping the Australian Government realise its commitment to a new, less adversarial culture in family law,” Mr Ruddock said. “It is encouraging that more people are being persuaded that mediation is a better option than litigation.”
The 25 additional Centres are spread across Australia with seven for New South Wales, six for Victoria, six for Queensland, three for Western Australia, two for South Australia, and one to be placed in Tasmania. An additional 25 Centres are set to open in July 2008, completing the national network of 65 Centres. Their contact details are below.
Families who cannot easily access a Centre can contact the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321, or access Family Relationships Online at www.familyrelationships.gov.au
Media Contact: Sarah Stock 0419 278 715
LOCATION ADDRESS CONTACT NUMBER
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DV: Family Violence Assessment Guide launched

DATE: Tuesday, July 31, 2007


A NEW APPROACH TO FAMILY VIOLENCE IN VICTORIA

The Minister for Children and the Minister for Women’s Affairs today addressed 700 participants on the Brumby Government’s new approach to tackling family violence in Victoria.

At the Working together to respond to children and young people affected by family violence forum, the Minister for Children, Lisa Neville, said the Government was taking a lead role in developing new ways to reduce the incidence of and improve the outcomes for those affected by family violence.

“Reporting rates for family violence are increasing but we believe that every Victorian child should be able to live safely in their home and community and therefore a new approach has been developed to break the cycle of family violence,” Ms Neville said.

“We know that up to 25 per cent of young people between the age of 12 and 20 have witnessed parental violence and one of the ways we can turn that around is by empowering parents and children to report family violence.

“We know that early childhood experiences do impact on lifelong learning, on children’s behaviour and their physical and mental health.”

The Minister for Women’s Affairs, Jacinta Allan, said the new family violence assessment guide, announced last week, would be an important part of this Governments approach to tackling family violence.

“The assessment guide will mean professionals, including school teachers, doctors, police, courts and specialist family violence services will be better supported to identify and respond to family violence,” Ms Allan said.

The new approach to Family Violence also includes;
· The establishment of regional committees across Victoria to coordinate the rollout of family violence services. This will result in the development of a range of local innovative initiatives.

· Clearer protocols between police, family violence services and family services are currently being developed. These will assist in the development of better ways of working together to ensure that the interests and needs of children receive prominence.

Practice Guidelines for counselling and support programs for women and children are currently being finalized to assist the provision of high quality services for women and children affected by family violence.


Source: Ministerial media release

Friday, 3 August 2007

Vale Dianne Smith- you will be sorely missed

Judicial Registrar Dianne Smith is today retiring after 13 years as a Judicial Registrar in the Brisbane Registry of the Family Court. There will be a ceremonial sitting of the Full Court in Brisbane today to mark her retirement.

Dianne has had a long and distinguished career, including:
-being the first female President of the Family Law Practitioners Association of Qld
-being the first female City Solicitor of Brisbane
-being a national pioneer in the representation of children.

On the bench, Dianne was extremely hardworking, well respected throughout the profession and simply of the top order. She had remarkable patience for someone who had the burden of such a busy list.

For those of us who have been around long enough to remember Dianne before she was appointed to the bench, she was a strong advocate for her clients but with that came the obvious care she had for her clients and the ability to see opposing points of view. She was a representative of children par excellence.

Dianne will be sorely missed.

New Case: child lives with father where both parties violent

In the recent case of GTS and DMS, Lucev FM had to consider whether a child should continue to live with the mother in Brisbane or move to the father in Adelaide.

The child was to move to live with the father.

One of the issues was that of violence, when it appeared that, in what appears to have been skillful cross-examination of the mother:
- the father had been violent to the mother
- the mother in turn had been violent to the child
- the child had been violent to the mother, and
-one of the mother's post-separation partners had been violent to the child:

The need to protect the Child – section 60CC(2)(b)

The evidence discloses:

a) that the Father has been violent toward the Mother on two or three occasions, resulting in the issuance of Protection Orders under the Domestic Violence Protection Act, 1989 (Qld) against the Father (in relation to the Mother only) in April 2000 and July 2003 (the latter expiring in July 2005); ...
b) no history of violence between the Father and the Child; ...; and
c) recent violent and abusive episodes between the Mother and the Child; including:
i) the Mother intentionally stepping on the Child’s foot with a stiletto heel; ........................;
ii) the Child being hit by the Mother (allegedly because he had "been throwing toys and tried to hit her"; ..............;
iii) general pushing and shoving, angrily, between Mother and Child; .........;
iv) the Child throwing food at the Mother and wiping it on her face; ......; and
v) the Child threatening to "knuckle" the Mother and punching her in the back and temple; ........;

d) that:
i) although the Mother asserts that she has not "been physical" .....with the Child a consideration of the evidence overall indicates that it is more than likely that she has "been physical" with the Child ...;
ii) the conclusion in (i) is reinforced by the Mother’s evidence. When asked about controlling the Child she responded:

"I can control him, my oath I can". [...; and

"I can control him, don’t you worry". ....

The words "my oath I can" and "don’t you worry" were delivered in a manner which was menacing; and
e) the Child has been the subject of physical abuse by one of the Mother’s partners (in 2004); ....

It is axiomatic that violence by or toward a Child is to be abhorred, and prevented if possible, and that abuse by or toward a Child ought not be tolerated, and likewise, prevented if possible. In this case the Child has been violent and abusive toward the Mother (and she likewise towards him). One of the Mother’s former post-separation partners has been violent to the Child. On the evidence it seems that as the Child, through adolescence, grows increasingly independent, this conflict between Mother and Child living in the confines of a Brisbane suburban unit, is likely to increase. There is no evidence of actual, or likely, violence towards the Child from the Father, the Father’s Friend (with whom he resides, and with whom the Child would reside if living with the Father) or the Father’s relatives living in South Australia.

Although the evidence of violence or abuse is recent and not prolific, in terms of the need to protect the Child from violence or abuse in the future, it seems to the Court that that protection would best be afforded by the Father.

New case- child with special needs

In the recent case of L and L, Chief Federal Magistrate Pascoe had to deal with the situtation where both children had medical needs, and one child had quite special needs. The mother had set in place a stringent regime for that child, and whilst not stating that the father was incompetent, that he would not reach the requisite standard of care that the child needed.

In his conclusions, Pascoe CFM held:
Children, to borrow the words of the Act, have "a right to know and be cared for by both parents". Indeed, one of the key considerations under the amendments to the Family Law Act, which took place last year, was the need for children to develop meaningful relationships with both their parents. The best interests of the child is the paramount consideration.

This case is unique in the sense that not only do both children have medical issues that both parents must deal with, but one child has medical needs which are quite severe, and which requires daily treatment. I am satisfied that the father can deal with these needs. The father does not demonstrate an inept understanding of the children’s needs, which would lead me to the conclusion that the children’s medical issues are such that substantial and significant time with their parents would not be in their best interests.

Separation has been painful for both parents and it is clear that it still remains a factor in their relationship. This is indeed unfortunate. Cooperative parenting is beneficial to all children, but more so to children with special medical needs. I am confident that the mother and the father will find strategies to communicate with each other as parents of children with such needs.

Article: Winners and Losers: The Father factor in Australian Child Custody Law

In a scholarly article especially critical of the role of men's groups, Dr Colin James provides historical context to the major changes that have occurred in the Family Law Act and its predecessors concerning children and how fathers are perceived.

For example:
After 1975 judges of the Family Court of Australia exercised the most unstructured discretion of any system in the Western world, even though the Family Law Act imposed guidelines for applying the welfare principle in custody matters.

That helps to explain why, during the 1990s, judges showed considerable diversity of opinion on the importance of gender roles in parenting decisions. Although Australian research had linked egalitarian beliefs with higher educational attainment, Family Court decisions showed that judges were as capable of gender bias as other community members.


and

The most significant male reaction to the 1975 reforms was the increase in domestic violence. Disputes over child custody aggravated the risk to women from violence by their male partners who in many cases exploited access arrangements to further threaten or assault the mother. Women’s refuges first appeared in the early 1970s and by 1979 there were 100 government funded refuges and 265 by 1990.

Male violence extended to judges the Family Court itself. In 1980, Justice David Opas was shot dead, and in 1984 a bomb killed Pearl Watson, wife of Justice Ray Watson. Also in 1984, Justice Richard Gee was seriously injured by a bomb placed at his homein a Sydney suburb and other bombs exploded in Family Court’s buildings.

These bombings and shootings appeared to be sophisticated acts of terrorism and most of the crimes were never resolved. Despite the intensity of opposition by some groups the government proceeded with reforms and passed the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth), which made it more difficult for men to avoid their financial obligations towards their children in the custody of the mother. Rates of domestic violence by men towards their wives increased and research confirmed that the most dangerous times were when women attempted to leave their male partners, sought legal advice about divorce or commenced legal proceedings.No one in government or the judiciary anticipated such a violent reaction by some men to the reforms.

Soon after the Family Court Act came into effect in 1976 theFamily Court refused to consider a man’s violence towards his wife relevant in custody cases unless it directly affected the children.141By the 1990s and after research by the Australian Institute of Criminology and an inquiry by a Joint Select Committee there was a significant shift in how judges interpreted the indirect effects of domestic violence on children.

In the 1994 case of JG and BG involving the custody of two small children the husband’s counsel argued that the allegations against his client of domestic violence towards the wife were inadmissible and irrelevant.143Chisholm J seized the opportunity to acknowledge research on domestic violence, the AustralianLaw Reform Commission’s report “Equality Before the Law” (1994) and earlier cases in Australia and other jurisdictions. He concluded that violence was relevant to thewelfare of children whether or not it was directed at them, it was committed in theirpresence or in some other way affected the parenting of the custodial parent.

It was the legislators however that most fully acquiesced to the demands of the reactionary men’s groups in the 1990s.


For the full article, click here.

NZ: UN could look at violence against women

The United Nations could send a Special Rapporteur to look at domestic violence in NZ if non-governmental organisations ask it to.

For the full story, click here.

Hague convention in action...

It's all news in NZ at the moment.

A mother who obtained protection orders on both sides of the Tasman returned with the children to NZ, only to have a New Zealand court order the children's return to Australia pursuant to the Hague Convention.

For the full story, click here

NZ bans smacking

NZ has banned the smacking of children by their parents, but there is a direction that when the smack is of a minor nature, police are directed not to prosecute.

However, to show that legislation does not always reflect the view of the people, in a recent survey, 78% of respondents said that they would still smack their children, leaving themselves open to possible prosecution!

For the full story, click here.

NZ to question women about DV when they go to hospital

The NZ government has outlined plans to tackle domestic violence by ensuring that when women attend public hospitals they must be questioned about domestic violence.Part of the focus is to ask if the woman is pregnant.

For the full story, click here.