The findings of the report, commissioned by the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department, were released this week.
The report specifically investigated the perspectives and responses of parents and children to the amendments brought about by new family law legislation, the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006, which was to represent a stronger approach to family violence, to both domestic violence and child abuse.
The research was conducted by teams from Monash University, University of South Australia and James Cook University and led by Monash University Professor Thea Brown and University of South Australia Associate Professor Dale Bagshaw.
The researchers interviewed more than 1100 parents and children online and by telephone to try to discover their perspectives on the effect that a history of, or existence of, violence within the relationship has on the decisions people make about accessing the courts and dispute resolution services, and the effect that violence has on them while they are at the courts or in the services.
Professor Brown said the views and experiences recounted in the study were consistent between respondents in the various states, in city and country locations, and between respondents from different ethnic and racial groups and between parents and children.
“The greatest differences between respondents was the way that women and men understood, experienced, described and took action regarding family violence, but there were also many similarities between them that emphasised common aspects of separating or divorced parents with past or present experiences of family violence,” Professor Brown said.
“Respondents believed family violence did affect the decisions that they made about accessing the courts and dispute resolution services, and the decisions they made while they were at courts and at dispute resolution services, and their post separation parenting arrangements and they saw the impact as being often unexpected, unsatisfactory and endless.”
The views of both women and men were that the family law socio-legal services system had not been designed to deal with the problems of family violence prior to 2006, and even afterwards services remained ignorant and did not offer sufficient relevant intervention. The respondents proposed many changes to the family law socio-legal services system ranging from ongoing education on family violence for the community and for the entire service system, to more support services, to changes in the current legislation.
“Nevertheless, and despite such proposals, the problem remains that the family law socio-legal services system is not one that has sought to place adult and child safety after parental separation above all other decision making principles. Unless it can move to do this family violence will remain a serious problem for families like so many in this study who seek separation as a way of ending family violence.” Professor Brown said.
Further information about this research is available on the Australian Government website.
For more information contact Samantha Blair, Media and Communications + 61 3 9903 4841 or 0439 013 951.