Opinion Piece – Improved outcomes ahead for children
Last week, the Albanese Government passed two significant pieces of legislation to make Australia’s family law system simpler and safer.
The long-overdue reforms put the best interests of children at the centre of all parenting disputes.
The changes will make what is an often-confusing and overly complex system easier to navigate for families going through a challenging period of their lives.
Significantly, the legislation makes it clear that the resolution of parenting disputes should always be based solely on what is in the best interests of the child.
This is what experts have been calling for over many years.
In the nine years the former government was in office there were more than two dozen reviews into the family law system, with hundreds of recommendations that were simply ignored.
In 2017, for example, a bipartisan parliamentary committee found that the existing laws in relation to parenting disputes were confusing, that they failed to prioritise the safety of children and that they were being improperly applied in a way that put children at risk.
These findings are consistent with the overwhelming consensus of family law experts.
The disappointing and difficult reality is that child abuse, or the risk of child abuse, is raised by one or more parties in 70% of matters before the courts.
The issue of a child experiencing family violence is raised by one or more parties in 74% of matters.
And around 76% of matters are mandatorily referred for consideration by a state or territory child welfare agency by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
Numerous inquiries have highlighted that these statistics present a particular challenge to the family law system.
And for far too long, the system has created too many barriers for vulnerable people to resolve their matters safely.
The legislation passed last week not only makes the family law system safer for children – it also makes it simpler, and more accessible, for families.
As a result of the changes, courts will now have access to better information in all family law matters.
The changes will ensure the courts have access to a holistic picture of family safety risk in order to prioritise the safety of children and families, particularly in circumstances where there is risk of child abuse, neglect or family violence.
This will see more family law matters resolved quickly, safely and inexpensively without compromising the safety of family members.
The Albanese Government is committed to acting, where the former government failed to for so many years.
Families deserve a family law system that is simple, accessible and that puts children at the heart of every outcome.
Opinion Piece was published in today's Daily Telegraph.