A Royal Commission into Australia’s Family Law System is needed
We, the undersigned, call on all federal parliamentarians to commit to an urgent Royal Commission into Australia’s family law system. It is our collective professional opinion that the family law system remains the most dangerous institution for children and families that Australia has ever seen.
Only a National Royal Commission of Inquiry offers a legal framework capable of straddling the significant and complex challenges including constitutional, legal, separation of powers, cross-jurisdictional implications and international obligations.
Catastrophic failures in the current family law system are devastating families and causing lifelong trauma-related dysfunction and at worst leading to the death of children.
The Australian Parliament simply cannot continue to allow this dysfunction to continue any longer.
Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that,
“States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”
In October 2018, retiring Family Court Chief Justice John Pascoe publicly voiced the issue of a Royal Commission, describing previous attempts at legislative reform as “tinkering around the edges”, and citing as “deeply problematic” the “divide between child protection and the family law system”. He concluded, “in my view, if legislation and the ALRC do not assuage public concern, it must be time to consider a royal commission into family law”.
13th June 2018 – former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged to make child safety a priority, stating that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse,
“Revealed that for too long the reporting of this abuse was met with indifference and denial by the very adults and institutions who were supposed to protect them. Children’s safety should always be put first and we know, thanks to the royal commission’s work, in far, far too many cases it wasn’t.”
22nd October 2018 – National Apology, Prime Minister Morrison stated,
“Today we confront a question too horrible to ask, let alone answer: why weren’t the children of our nation loved, nurtured and protected? Why was their trust betrayed? Why did those who knew cover it up? Why were the cries of children and parents ignored? Why was our system of justice blind to injustice? Why has it taken so long to act? Why were others things more important than this, the care of innocent children? Why didn’t we believe?”
22nd October 2018 – Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, said:
“We are sorry for every childhood stolen, every life lost. We are sorry for every betrayal of trust, every abuse of power. We are sorry for trauma measured in decades, for scars that can never heal. We are sorry for every cry for help that fell on deaf ears and hard hearts. We are sorry for every crime that was not investigated, every criminal who went unpunished. And we are sorry for every time that you were not heard and not believed. We hear you now. We believe you. Australia believes you”.
It is now agreed by many child protection specialists, social commentators, academics, judges, legal and medical professionals, those working within both commonwealth and state child protection bureaucracies, mothers, fathers, grandparents, children and, most recently, UNICEF that the current system is dangerously dysfunctional. It is harming children on a daily basis.
We the undersigned join the chorus of those 115,000 people in the community who have already signed Bravehearts’ Petition for a Royal Commission and call on the Federal Parliament to act on its recently stated commitment to Australia’s children and families and announce an immediate Royal Commission into the family law system of Australia.
It is our hope that you will respond with your commitment to support the Royal Commission into the full breadth of the family law system that this country so clearly needs, including the interactions of our family courts and associated personnel, police and child protection departments. If this is the case, please send your confirmation by 5pm Friday, 7 December, so that we can publicly support and celebrate your leadership on this matter.
List of Signatories
- Hetty Johnston AM, Founder and Chair, Bravehearts Foundation Ltd.
- Rosie Batty, Anti-Family Violence Campaigner and Australian of the Year 2015
- Michelle Wicks, Business Transformation Manager, DV Connect
- Barry Williams, National President, Lone Fathers Association Australia Inc.
- Professor Warwick Middleton, Chair, Cannan Institute Past President, ISSTD
- Leilani Carter, Solicitor, The Advocacy and Support Centre Inc
- Dr Anne Butcher, Executive Director, Mackay Women’s Services
- Jill Robinson, Executive Officer, Pat Thomas House Inc.
- Alice Evans, CEO, True Relationships & Reproductive Health
- Mr Ariel C Heber, President, Jewish Care; Queensland Jewish Community Services Inc
- Ariel Marguin, President, Justice for Children Australia
- Ms Judy McLean, Principal Solicitor & Coordinator, Fremantle Community Legal Centre
- Richard Brading, Community Legal Solicitor, Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury
- Elspeth McInnes, Convenor, WEAVE - Women Everywhere Advocating Violence Elimination Inc (Australia)
- Grace Jennings, Community Liaison and Domestic and Family Violence Manager, Illawarra Women’s Health Centre
- Gemma Bradshaw, Specialist Court Support Worker, Brisbane Domestic Violence Services
- Dr Silke Meyer, Senior Lecturer in Domestic and Family Violence Practice, CQ University
- Rachael Uebergang, Co-Director, NT Working Women's Centre
- Caroline Holmstrom, Chief Executive, Victim Support Service
- Katrina Weeks, Operations Manager, Centre Against Sexual Violence Inc Logan and Redlands
- Susan Crane, Executive Officer, Dawn House Inc
- Gabrielle Borggaard, CEO, Domestic Violence Action Centre
- Julie-Anne Dudley, Admin Officer, Berry Street
- Dana Delmont, President, Zonta International – Cairns
- Jessica Herdman, Case Manager, Annie North Women’s Refuge Inc
- Cassandra Seery, Associate Lecturer in Law, Deakin University
- Jules Thompson, Founder, Broken Ballerina Foundation
- Helen Hawksworth, Solicitor, South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre
- Glen Hulley, Founding CEO, Project Karma
- Dr Deborah Walsh, Lecturer & Domestic and Family Violence Specialist, The University of Queensland
- Jacqui Reed, Chief Executive Officer, CREATE Foundation
- Romecca Sawers, Business Owner, Hearts Content
- Elaine Meyer, Co-Director, Family Law Reform Council
- Robyn Liddell, Former President, Zonta Club of Gladstone
- Judith Grieve, Counsellor, Inner Life Works
- Jenny Davidson, CEO, Council of Single Mothers and their Children
- Liz Mullinar, CEO, Heal for Life Foundation
- Terese Edwards, CEO, National Council for Single Mothers and Children
- Kerry Thompson, CEO, Victim Support Unit: VOCAL Inc NSW
- Moo Baulch, CEO, NSW Domestic Violence