And Motherless Christmases
Alice Springs News
16 December 2015
Sir – Tens of thousands of Australian children are being harmed, and many will spend this Christmas without one of their parents and other family members, as a direct result of our harmful, adversarial family court system.
This is one of the conclusions of the new “Children in Crisis” report just released by the Family Law Reform Coalition and backed by independent Senator for Victoria, John Madigan, who says too many families are being harmed by the current system.
Recent announcements reveal that Australia’s family courts are themselves in crisis: head of Australia’s Family Court, Chief Justice Bryant, who said on her 2004 appointment that “her top aim is to win public respect for the court”, recently took the unusual step of going public with her plea for an extra $17m.
The solution, though, is not to give our family courts more money. All that will do is ensure that our children are traumatised for perhaps 1½ years instead of two or three.
Many children will still be left in abusive environments for extended periods, and many more will still be wrongly forced to lose the genuine connection with a loving parent, often with half of their entire family, that’s so important to their well-being.
The current system is unsustainable; its financial, and human, costs are unacceptable. We need a new system, such as a national Family Commission, that’s not adversarial and that provides quick, affordable solutions for the majority of families – with a proper Court to back that up swiftly where there is genuine abuse or domestic violence or a failure to abide by its rulings.
Tragically for so many children, similar recommendations were made in a major government report back in 2003, but they’ve been ignored by successive governments.
New studies since then have consistently shown the critical importance of children being able to maintain proper relationships with both of their parents after separation in the vast majority of families.
Our family courts are supposed to be looking after ‘the best interests’ of children. But instead they’re leaving, in their wake, a trail of children and parents whose lives have been ruined; a litany of bankruptcies and suicides; and thousands of children who will not be sharing Christmas this year with a parent who loves them.