Update: our cross-examination campaign
“We are listening to you.” That’s the message Fair Agenda members have just been sent by ALP leader Bill Shorten in response to our campaign to ensure no survivor of family violence has to endure cross-examination by their abuser.
The Labor Party have this morning re-affirmed their commitment to make changes in this area, and require judges to consider what should be done to protect vulnerable witnesses when family violence is alleged. But basic protections like this shouldn’t be contingent on which party is in government.
With this issue back in the headlines today, we have a critical opportunity to turn up the head on Government decision makers.
Can you take a few minutes to email Minister for Women Michaelia Cash and Attorney-General Brandis to urge them to change the Coalition’s policy?
Right now there are no protections in place to stop abusive ex-partners from cross-examining those they have abused in Family Court. For survivors like Eleanor, it means “I was forced to answer the questions of a man who had sexually assaulted and abused me for over a decade…. And that horrific experience was a major obstacle in my recovery from the trauma of my abuse.”
Last year Eleanor called on Fair Agenda members to stand with her, and community legal workers to call on our federal parliamentarians to make this change. More than 5,000 of us have answered that call so far. And in the lead up to the election we came together to flood the major parties with calls for change in this area. The pressure from Fair Agenda members and other community groups helped secure this pledge from the ALP.
We'll still need to see the detail of this proposal, and there are some concerns that judges will still have discretion to allow the practice - but this is a big step in the right direction.
Our campaign is working. That's why it’s critical we keep building the pressure around this issue.
Click here for tips on what to send Minister Cash and Attorney-General Brandis, or email them directly via: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
The full letter from ALP leader Bill Shorten to Fair Agenda members is available here and below:
Dear Renee and the Fair Agenda team,
I’m aware that Fair Agenda and your supporters, alongside advocates and experts, have been campaigning to stop violent perpetrators cross-examining survivors of domestic violence. Thank you for your work. I want to let you know that we are listening to you.
We have listened to the Productivity Commission, to advocates, and to experts, and Labor is taking action.
Today, on White Ribbon day, Terri Butler and I affirmed a plan that we will enact under a Labor Government. Right now, survivors of domestic violence are too often made to endure cross-examination from their violent ex-partners. That must no longer happen.
As Prime Minister, I will require judges to consider what should be done to protect vulnerable witnesses when family violence is alleged. And I'll equip them with the power and the resources to say enough is enough - no one should have to be re-traumatised by having their violent ex cross-examine them in the witness box. Labor will commit more than $43 million over four years to make sure this practice ceases.
Your advocacy is very important, and your advocacy is still needed. Malcolm Turnbull’s government is presiding over massive cuts to legal services - with a 30% funding cliff coming up in July. And his party continues to ignore your advocacy, the experts in the field, and the Productivity Commission; they are not taking action to reform cross-examination. This should not be a partisan issue. Please continue to push for these important measures, so that we don’t have to wait until the next election to resolve this problem.
On behalf of Terri Butler, Mark Dreyfus, Tanya Plibersek and all of my Labor colleagues, thank you again for getting in touch with us about this important issue. Please keep up your good work.
Bill Shorten MP
Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
*If you have been affected by sexual assault or domestic violence, you can access 24/7 counselling support at 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).*