Sunday, 26 July 2009

McClelland announces review of Family Law Act to tackle domestic violence laws

The Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, and the NSW Acting Attorney-General Verity Firth, have announced a joint review of the Family Law Act to deal with how the Act deals with domestic violence.

The review, to be headed by former academic and Family Court judge Richard Chisholm, comes after the death of Darcey Freeman who was thrown off Melbourne's Westgate Bridge earlier this year. Darcey was the subject of Family Court proceedings at the time of her death.

The review is to be into the harmonisation of domestic violence and family law.

“The primary aim of this work will be to address inconsistencies so as to ensure women and children are better protected under both Commonwealth and State laws,” Mr McClelland said. The report, to be conducted by the Australian and New South Wales Law Reform Commissions in consultation with other jurisdictions, will address inconsistencies in the interaction and application of Commonwealth and State laws regarding domestic violence, child protection, sexual assault and family law.

It will also examine ways in which laws can better protect women and children from domestic violence when a case crosses State boundaries and involves multiple jurisdictions. Ms Firth said state Attorneys-General will also investigate the rollout of a national registration scheme for domestic violence orders.

“Some women move to another state to escape a violent relationship and are often unaware they need to re-register a violence order,” Ms Firth said. The report, to be completed by July 2010, will form part of a National Action Plan to address violence against women and children. This follows the ‘Time for Action’ report, by the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, which found that there was high level of complexity between Commonwealth and State laws that aim to protect women and children.

Richard Chisholm was a very well regarded judge. Amongst his other judgments was one in 1994 which said that domestic violence occuring between spouses could be relevant even if the children were not present.

Since retirement from the Family Court, Mr Chisholm has co-authored with Jennifer McIntosh research that queries the effectiveness of the shared parenting regime under the Family Law Act.

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