Since 1995 there have been 11 inquiries and reports into the Family Law System in Australia.
These inquiries have been universal in their description and findings into the system. Consequently, it is well documented that the family law system is under resourced and overworked. Although only 7 per cent of family law disputes end in trial the system remains over burdened with litigation because 47 per cent of relationships dissolve.
We also understand that the system is failing to efficiently process disputes with the average wait time for a dispute to be heard in a 10 to 14-month window.
When relationships dissolve often children, property and responsibility are at the centre of disputes. The legal system is adversarial by nature so there can be a winner and a loser in a dispute, which can have tragic consequences for families and most importantly children experiencing this process.
The impact on children during disputes shouldn't be underestimated and I believe that they should be the focus of the system and parents during such disputes.
Children engaged in family law disputes can be a fragile situation with unwanted stress and anxiety placed on families.
There is no greater example of this than at the Launceston Family Law Court.
The Family Law Court Building could only be described as deleterious to justice.
Firstly, the rooms size is inadequate.
There is only one access point which is an utter fire hazard and security hazard for parties and legal personnel. here are only two security offices in the court which has shown that they are unable to adequately handle verbal and physical disputes.
During 'Duty Day' when all parties gather for court there can be eighty or more couples in the waiting room.
The room is just not big enough for this amount of people and secondly it is uncomfortable for parties. It is a situation whereby you have parties on opposing sides in an unsuitably confined space.
Often, verbal abuse ensues between ex-partners in this small room and it creates an environment which parties should not be forced to endure. In the words of the shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC, when he visited the court recently, the court in Launceston is, "from another era".
In comparison, the Family Law Court in Melbourne is a well resourced twenty first century building providing a safe environment for jurists and families engaged in the Family Law System process.
Frankly, the Launceston Family Law Court building is not fit for purpose in comparison to its Melbourne counterpart.
During late 2019 a man attempted to jump the front counter of the Family Law Court in Launceston causing damage, while children were present.
Past incidents have included a lawyer being spat on by a litigant and an attendee bringing 15 support people in an attempt to intimidate lawyers and other parties.
It is also an environment where children are often caught in the middle when parents bring them to the building. I don't want to write an opinion piece after a tragedy, instead government must act now before more incidents occur. So much has been written about the circumstances of the court and yet the Morrison Government has simply brushed the concerns aside.
It is the responsibility of government in Australia to administer laws and be responsible for the safety and security of people.
For example, state and territory governments are responsible for administering many of the legal processes that affect children, including juvenile justice, care and protection.
While family law and income support services are federal responsibilities.
Unfortunately, the parents and children involved in family law disputes are being forced to endure a legal process that should be more streamlined and allow for a less acrimonious legal process.
Unfortunately, the parents and children involved in family law disputes are being forced to endure a legal process that should be more streamlined and allow for a less acrimonious legal process. The federal government is responsible for this failure.
While some of Tasmania's most vulnerable families are being forced to use the same waiting room, go through the same security entrance and travel in the same elevator as their alleged perpetrator because of underfunding within the Family Law system in Tasmania, something must change now.
These are serious problems which shouldn't just be brushed aside by Bass MHR Bridget Archer or the Attorney-General Christian Porter.
A priority should be placed on required infrastructure, safer court rooms and more financial resources to ensure access to justice, now.
- Helen Polley, Tasmanian Labor senator
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