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AASW to present evidence of much-needed family law reforms

Published: 24 July 2017

Urgent reform is needed to ensure that the family law system can more quickly and effectively guarantee the safety of people affected by family violence, says the Vice President of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), Christine Craik.

She will be giving evidence today to the parliamentary inquiry (available via live stream) into a better family law system during which she will call for the need for government to improve services, processes and staff training to support and protect those affected by family violence.

“Women and children must be protected, supported and assisted through legal processes that can be lengthy, abusive and traumatic,” said Ms Craik.

“Limited financial and Legal Aid resources often lead women to represent themselves against their perpetrator, who frequently has greater economic resources and therefore better access to significant legal representation, so reform of the family law system is key.”

“Perpetrators control of victims often continues through court processes and the failure of the courts and legal system to adequately intervene perpetuates the abuse.”

Any change in policy and processes, she says, must be matched with a significant investment in Legal Aid and community legal services, and be accompanied by major investments in associated social support services, including housing, and training of judicial and court staff.

“Identifying family violence and knowing how to intervene requires significant understanding and awareness by judicial and court staff,: Ms Craik said.

"This includes understanding the ways in which perpetrators use the the court processes to further the abuse, and the ways in which legal representatives for the perpetrators are paid to further perpetrate abuse against women and their children in court."

She added that social workers hear countless stories from victims who are actively discouraged in the court system from disclosing family violence information, or when they do, are accused of exaggeration or manipulation,” she said.

“Urgent reform is needed now to save lives and keep people affected by family violence safe.”

The Australian Association of Social Workers represents over 10,000 professional social workers, many of whom practice on the frontline of family violence. Read more about social work practice and family violence in the spring issue of Social Work Focus magazine and in the AASW ‘Violence against women’ position statement.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers