The Gold Coast Bulletin

Child law reform is ‘urgent’


QUEENSLAND female legalaid lawyers have cautiously welcomed extra funding to help thousands of women escape violent relationsh­ips but fear millions to improve the family law system will be for nought without urgent child-centred law reform.

The 2021 budget included $129m over four years to fund women’s legal services — a measure Women’s Legal Service Queensland chief executive Angela Lynch said was “significan­t” and would help women and children escape violence and find safety.

But she warned the $60.8m budgeted for improvemen­ts to the family law case management would not create a “safe, child-centred” system without urgent law reform.

“Women and children will only be safe in the system if changes are made to make it the priority. For example, the assumption of shared parental responsibi­lity, which gives violent men an incentive to litigate and puts children at risk.

“This dangerous presumptio­n routinely gives violent perpetrato­rs continued access to their victims and has already caused preventabl­e deaths.

“Survivors have been clear: it must go.”

The federal government will also spend $165m over three years in Escaping Violence Payments, providing up to $5000 in cash and in-kind payments.

Beyond DV founder and managing director Carolyn Robinson said the money in the Budget was “really headed in the right direction”.

“No one can ignore now that family and domestic violence is a huge issue across the nation,” she said. “Hopefully we will be able to address the situation much better now.”

Ms Robinson said the federal commitment to establish 20 new children’s contact centres — which are used in family court matters where supervised visitation has been ordered — was excellent news, as were new moves to accredit them, as current centres were full, or expensive for parents.

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