This week Bravehearts launched its 4 Step Plan for a Safer Family Law System to coincide with the international campaign, 19 Days of Activism for Prevention of Abuse and Violence against Children.
Bravehearts’ Founder Hetty Johnston said, “We are moved to take this approach because of a total lack of confidence in the current ALRC Review which promised so much but has not lived up to expectations.
“It is our children and their protective parents and grandparents who are suffering while the executives continue to tinker at the edges of this totally broken, dysfunctional and deadly family law system. We need decisive action to stem the trauma being experienced by innocent Australian children. Australia has a duty of care to its own children.”
The 19 Days Campaign is a Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) initiative launched in 2011 by the Children-Youth Section and sponsored by the WWSF.
The 4 Step Plan is designed to create a safer family law system, quickly, simply and cost-effectively.
- An abbreviated Family Law System Royal Commission
A Royal Commission into Australia’s family law system must be established, with terms of reference aimed at preventing violence and sexual abuse across the breadth of the family law system, including Australia’s family courts and associated personnel, state police and child protection departments. If conducted in line with Steps Two, Three and Four, below, the Royal Commission could be confined to consideration of only 100 cases and will then unearth the crux of the issues facing this system. Then and only then can the family law system be truly safe for children and protective parents.
- Apply the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to the family law system
The new National Office for Child Safety, with assistance from the National Centre of Excellence and COAG, must extract and apply the Child Safe Standards and all other relevant recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse directly to the state and federal systems that are responsible for the majority of child protection roles in the family law system, including Australia’s family courts, state police and child protection departments.
- Establish the National Child Advocacy Centre
A trial National Child Advocacy Centre must be established to focus on professionally establishing, on the balance of probabilities, the veracity of notifications of child harm. This centre would capture the voice of the child. It would assign a Child Advocate to the child, compile a forensic family report, conduct a forensic interview of the child and provide a report to the Family Court for its consideration. We expect that adopting this model will allow for an expedient response or better yet, in many matters, will result in the matter not presenting before the court in the first place. We expect it will deliver greater time and economic efficiencies and safer outcomes.
The necessary funding and legislative support needed to commence the trial must be provided by state and federal governments as a matter of urgency.
- Review of Cases by the National Child Advocacy Centre
The National Child Advocacy Centre, in collaboration with the Family Court, must provide for a review of family court cases in which criminal allegations of family violence, sexual assault or abuse have been made and the child is now subject to orders enforcing their contact with the alleged offender. This would include those cases discovered by the Family Law System Royal Commission. The National Child Advocacy Centre will hear the voice of the child, assess the integrity of the evidence and provide a “Balance of Probabilities” risk assessment report to the Family Court. It will work with a multi-disciplinary team of experts. To expedite the safety of the children most at risk, the review must prioritise the cases posing the greatest risk of harm.
The 19 Days campaign runs from 1 November until the 19 November, and finishes with International Children’s Day on the 20 November.
Hetty said, “Bravehearts will be highlighting the issues facing our children on each of the 19 days and will have a call to action on the 20 November.”
“Australians have the power to make this change. The next 19 days are the time to write to your local MP, post and share on social media, and show our leaders that child safety matters to all Australians.”
“Today we call on our leaders – and on all Australians – to support the 4 Step Plan and make the family law system safer for all children.”
“It’s quick, it’s cost effective and it’s necessary,” Hetty concluded.
Do you need support? Call Bravehearts’ national Information and Support Line toll free on 1800 272 831 (8:30am – 4:30pm Mon to Fri AEDST).