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Needs of children must be prioritised in Family Law Inquiry 

Save the Children says family law system does not adequately protect children’s best interests
16 December 2019

Save the Children’s submission to the Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia’s Family Law System urges the Joint Select Committee to keep children’s best interests at the heart of the inquiry.

Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds has implored the Committee to not be distracted or compelled by harmful misconceptions and mistruths for which there is no evidence.

“This review provides a significant opportunity to make real change to a long-broken system,” Mr Ronalds said.

“Allowing for baseless, harmful rhetoric to inform public debate and decision making will only incite further violence against women and actually cause harm to children.” 

“The focus of this inquiry should be on ensuring children are at the heart of decision-making and have a voice.”

Recently the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended the Australian government clearly reflect these principles in law and practice.

Currently the courts may consider a child’s view during proceedings, but there is no requirement to actually provide the opportunity for a child to express their views. Similarly, Independent Children’s Lawyers are not currently required to meet with the children whose interests they are representing.

“Our concern is that the system is still failing to listen to the very people it is entrusted to represent and protect – children,” Mr Ronalds said.

“Despite multiple reviews and rounds of legislative reforms over the last decade, Australia’s family law system is still not dealing with child protection issues adequately or appropriately. 

“Save the Children strongly recommends the Family Law Act be amended to prioritise the interests of children and give them agency in decisions that most affect them.”

The submission recommends all Parliamentarians undertake family violence awareness training to ensure the inquiry itself does no harm.

Save the Children is a leading provider of family violence and family support services across Australia. You can view Save the Children’s full submission here.

For interviews, call Jess Brennan on 0421 334 9180.

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