‘Not enough’: Court funding ignored in domestic violence recommendations

By Naomi Neilson|07 April 2021
Dr Jacoba Brasch QC

While it has welcomed a suite of recommendations on improving family, domestic and sexual violence, Australia’s major legal body is concerned that there was no consideration for additional court funding to adequately address these matters.

Across 88 recommendations, the bipartisan report of the House of Representatives standing committee on social policy and legal affairs has suggested a more coordinated and comprehensive national approach to make a “meaningful reduction” in the high rate of family, domestic and sexual violence in homes across the country. 

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It includes developing a uniform national definition of family, domestic and sexual violence, universal age-appropriate respectful relationships and sexual consent education, measures to address coercive control and the establishment of a national commission to have independent oversight of the next national plan. 

Committee chair Andrew Wallace said that despite the work that the Australian government has done in the past, on average one woman is still killed every eight days at the hands of a current or former partner. With the report’s “wide ranging” recommendations, he hopes to send a “clear message” for a better approach. 

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“This senseless violence and abuse are sadly all too common, and its impact is profound and long lasting on family, friends and indeed the entire community. There is much more work to do,” Mr Wallace said, adding that “as a nation, we must do better to begin addressing these appalling statistics”. 

Law Council of Australia president Dr Jacoba Brasch QC said that although these recommendations are welcomed and should “go some way” to addressing the confusion and complexity that arises from “inconsistent” legislative frameworks, it is disappointing that the court did not recommend funding to address court delays. 

“Although judges do their best, the family law courts and associated services are not adequately resourced to properly deal with violence and its effects,” Dr Brasch said. 

The report found that despite the significant investments made by federal, state and territory governments to date, they are not enough to “meet the unmet need”. It includes lack of safe environments when litigations are appearing in court to give evidence through to poor accessibility for victims to support services.

“It is disappointing that the report did not consider or call for additional funding for the courts to adequately address family violence in the justice system. The Law Council is currently continuing to consider the report in detail,” Dr Brasch commented. 

The report did not call for additional funding to legal assistance services to assist victims of family, domestic and sexual violence and engage more social workers experienced in this space. Dr Brasch said this is in addition to the welcomed recommendation that there is a commitment to “increasing the overall baseline funding for specialist family and domestic violence service providers”. 

‘Not enough’: Court funding ignored in domestic violence recommendations
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