A peak women’s legal group will use today’s national summit on family violence to push for an end to victims being directly cross-examined in court by their ex-partners.
Peak women’s legal group says issue of cross-examination in court by ex-partners could be easily fixed
Women’s group welcomes government funding, but says it will not be enough
Federal Opposition says Government budget cuts are not helping efforts to reduce family violence
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, along with state and territory leaders, ministers for women and more than 100 others — including domestic violence experts and business leaders — will attend the Council of Australian Governments Family Violence Summit in Brisbane.
They will review progress and highlight best practice around the country.
Women’s Legal Services Australia called on the meeting to consider the issue of women regularly being directly cross-examined by abusive former partners during Family Court proceedings.
“It’s not only traumatising for the victim of violence, it can actually affect their ability to give evidence clearly and accurately,” spokeswoman Joanna Fletcher said.
“Courts don’t actually even then have the information they need to keep the children safe, so it’s a double whammy.
“We know from the Family Law Council that more than half of the parenting cases that come before the Family Court, one or both parties are actually unrepresented for some or all of the proceedings.”
The group argues the cross-examination issue could be easily fixed.
Government funding not enough to ‘plug the gap’
The Federal Government will use the summit to detail how it plans to allocate $30 million of funding for frontline legal assistance and family law services.
It will include $18 million for integrated duty lawyer and social support services in family courts.
Women’s Legal Services Australia welcomed the funding, but said it would not be enough to “plug the gap” left by funding cuts to community legal centres, which provide legal services to many family violence victims.
“Two years ago, the Productivity Commission recommended the Government invest $200 million immediately in the legal assistance sector,” Ms Fletcher said.
“Instead what’s happening in the middle of next year is a reduction in funding to community legal centres in particular.”
Labor accuses Government of being slow to spend money
The Federal Opposition said government budget cuts were not helping efforts to reduce family violence.
It said the cuts included $35 million from Community Legal Centres, and $88 million from the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.
Labor also accused the Government of being slow to spend money allocated to trials of innovative technology to keep women safe, spending $180,000 of the $12 million it had promised.
One in four Australian women has experienced violence at the hands of her partner or ex-partner, and, on average, one Australian woman is killed each week.
When Mr Turnbull first took office, he said it was a national disgrace and vowed to lead a cultural shift that would see Australia known internationally as a country that respects women.
His government has a $100 million national action plan to improve frontline services, make women safer in their homes, and to change the attitudes of men who believe violence is acceptable.
Family violence support services:
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