Child protection advocate Hetty Johnston will fight for a royal commission into Australia’s family law system with a campaign seed-funded by $500,000 from an anonymous donor whose family was emotionally ravaged by a volatile family court process.
The Bravehearts founder vowed yesterday to use the money to help demolish and rebuild a system “where parents can be ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a court-ordered report or face the loss of their child; where lawyers routinely advise that allegations of child sexual assault shouldn’t be raised … where the parent with the deepest pockets and the smoothest appearance wins the day; where children’s own words are discounted.
“We needed this royal commission yesterday. It’s deadly serious because kids are dying.”
The $500,000 donation came in the wake of Bravehearts’ 277-page Abbey’s Project report into what Ms Johnston calls “the most untransparent, unaccountable and dangerous institution for children in this country”.
The report, named for a young West Australian girl allegedly driven to suicide by the family law system, canvassed insights from 320 families and professionals with experience of the Family Court and examined 15 case studies where children were placed at direct risk of sexual harm, to highlight the need for reforms.
“We’re not just talking about the court but how it interacts with state authorities,” Ms Johnston said. “It’s such a closed system. Families aren’t allowed to speak to media, they aren’t even allowed to speak to us. It’s just absolutely tyrannical.”
Ms Johnston last week joined a panel of experts appointed by the Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, to review the state’s child safety system following revelations that the man charged with the murder of 12-year-old Logan schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer was her foster father, Rick Thorburn.
“Sharing of information is a national problem that doesn’t stop at the borders,” she said.
“The current national system is broken.”
Ms Johnston spent two years investigating Australia’s family law system, culminating in the Abbey’s Project report. “The system failed Abbey until she couldn’t take it anymore, until she decided that to find the peace and safety she craved she would need to leave her adored mother and her loving siblings,” Ms Johnston said. “For too many years we have been hearing the torturous testimony of desperate parents and children caught in the family law system, a system that includes all manner of authority figures such as police, court reporters, lawyers, expert witnesses and child protection departments.”
In 2013, Bravehearts called for the current Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to include the culture and practices of the family law system.
Read More: www.theaustralian.com.au
By: Trent DaltonBack to News
The closest train stations are Town Hall, taking the Park Street exit, or St James Station, taking the Elizabeth Street exit. John R Quinn & Co. is on the corner of Park and Elizabeth.
Best parking is in the Domain parking station. Take the moving footway and cross Hyde Park to reach our offices.