There are grave fears for the ability of Australia’s family court system to support women and children fleeing family violence, as the Morrison Government backs in its radical proposal to effectively abolish the Family Court.

Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon said the Government voted last night to merge the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court of Australia into one generalist court.

“There are major issues with the Family Court system but this legislation will go no way to addressing them. This reckless plan from the Morrison Liberal Government will essentially abolish the standalone Family Court—a court which plays a critical role in providing specialist support, especially in cases where there is family and domestic violence,” Ms Claydon said.

“70 per cent of matters brought before the family courts involve domestic violence. The consequences of reducing our ability to support and protect these people are incredibly serious indeed.”

“Newcastle lawyers consistently tell me of a chronically underfunded system. They speak of the lengthy delays in replacing judges. They say that matters are taking up to four years to resolve, with families waiting up to a year for family reports to be made. They tell me of their worry and concern for our judges, who are each carrying a workload of 1½ judges by themselves. And they tell me of constituents falling through the cracks, thrust into personal danger or stuck in limbo while their family situations deteriorate.

“The Morrison Government needs to reverse its strategy of persistent neglect that has brought our family law system to its knees.”

Ms Claydon said the legislation was also condemned on the national stage.  

“More than 110 eminent organisations involved in family law banded together to pen an open letter which calls on the Morrison Government to abandon this legislation once and for all. The letter actually urges that we go in the opposite direction and increase the level of specialisation in family law and family violence, not dilute and diminish it.

“When any legislation prompts such unified and vehement condemnation from those that know, it behoves a government to listen. The passage of the Bill through the House demonstrates that this Government has heard nothing.”

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