Right now Australia is in the midst of a family violence crisis. Men are abusing and murdering women in shocking numbers, yet our Federal Government is still leaving thousands of women without access to the service support they need to be safe. What’s more, the family law system is failing victims, compounding their trauma and risking the safety of women and children affected.

The questions and scores on this scorecard have been developed by Fair Agenda in conjunction with Domestic Violence NSW, Domestic Violence Victoria, Women’s Legal Services Australia, the National Association of Community Legal Centres, National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum and No To Violence/Men’s Referral Service.

Scorecard

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How have the parties been scored? (click to view)

Parties were asked a series of questions developed in partnership with family violence experts.

Then their policies for family violence funding were scored out of a possible 9:

  • 1 point was available for commitment to a guaranteed, long-term, dedicated funding stream
  • 2 points were available for support for the estimated $2 billion of additional federal funding the experts say is needed to address service and system gaps.
  • 1 point was available for commitment to the $28 million of federal funding needed to ensure national coverage of Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Services.
  • 1 point was available for commitment to reversing the $34.83 million cuts to Community Legal Centres (where the top two areas of work are family law and family violence related).
  • 1 point was available for committing additional funding for Community Legal Centres to help address unmet need (currently 160,000 people are turned away annually, including but not limited to women affected by domestic violence)
  • 1 point was available for commitment to the estimated $37 million additional federal funding needed to expand perpetrator responses and interventions such as men’s behaviour change programs
  • 1 point was available for committing to the long term core funding needed for the national prevention organisation Our Watch ($5 million per year until 2022)
  • 1 point was available for supporting investment to invest in primary prevention capacity.

Note: It is important to note that only parties in a position to form Government will have control over the budget. Other parties have been scored regarding their commitment to use any balance of power positions to support the allocation of full funding in the areas needed.

The policies for improving safety in family law were scored out of a possible 5, based on the urgent priorities identified in the Women's Legal Services Australia's policy:

  • 1 point was available for commitment to support the placement of domestic violence specialists in family court registries to undertake risk assessments at the very earliest stages of a case and provide recommendations on interim care arrangements for children
  • 1 point was available for commitment to legislative protections to stop a victim being directly cross-examined by their abuser
  • 1 point was available for commitment to the national roll out of the Co-Ordinated Family Dispute Resolution in the Family Court system
  • 1 point was available for commitment to supporting implementation of the Family Law Council's advice to legislate family violence as a relevant consideration in property settlements.
  • 1 point was available for commitment to the establishment of a national accreditation and monitoring scheme for all family report writers
The questions parties were asked (click to view)

Funding for services

These questions are being asked in partnership with a number of domestic violence specialists, including Domestic Violence NSW, Domestic Violence Victoria, Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, Women's Legal Services Australia and No To Violence. 

Q1. Inadequate and unpredictable funding for family and domestic violence services limits the capacity of specialist agencies to respond to the urgent and ongoing needs of those affected. Would your party support the implementation of guaranteed, long-term funding for family violence services, delivered through a dedicated Commonwealth funding stream? 

Q2. Would your Party commit the additional federal funding needed for family and domestic violence related services to meet unmet demand – estimated at $2 billion annually? 

Q3. The Family Violence Prevention Legal Services provide specialist and culturally safe services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but are currently limited to just 14 locations. Would your Party provide the funding needed to ensure national coverage -- estimated at an additional $28 million annually? 

Q4. Community Legal Centres provide vital free legal advice to people experiencing family violence. The top two areas of work CLCs do nationally are family law and family violence related. Would your Party commit to reverse the scheduled $34.83 million cuts to CLCs between 2017-2020, and provide additional funding? 

Q5. Would your Party provide additional federal funding to expand perpetrator responses and intervention such as men’s behaviour change programs, estimated by No To Violence to require an additional $37 million of federal funding annually? 

Q6. Our Watch is the National Foundation for the Prevention of Violence Against Women and their Children. It oversees and leads the implementation of the national strategy to prevent violence against women. Does your Party support the provision of long term, core funding of Our Watch of $5 million annually until at least 2022 (the final year of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children)? 

Q7. Would your Party support investment to build the capacity of practitioners in community groups, government, organisations and key sectors to ensure they have expertise in the prevention of violence, and are able to expand the reach of current primary prevention activities? 

Policies to improve the safety of women and children in the family law system

The Women’s Legal Service Australia, in partnership with Rosie Batty, recently launched their ‘Safety First in family law’ proposal, outlining the policy changes needed to keep women and children affected by family violence safe in the family law system. This section of the survey deals with your party’s position on key policies from that proposal. 

Q1. Would your Party implement a policy to place domestic violence specialists in family court registries to undertake risk assessments at the very earliest stages of a case and provide recommendations on interim care arrangements for children? 

Q2. Would your party amend the Family Law Act 1975 to introduce legislative protections to stop a victim being directly cross-examined by their abuser? 

Q3. In 2012 a Co-Ordinated Family Dispute Resolution pilot which incorporated specialist domestic violence lawyers and social workers into the Family Court system was tested in a number of locations, and was highly successful at ensuring the best interests of children were met in matters.

Would your Party roll out this mediation model nationally? 

Q4. Right now family violence is not legislated as a relevant consideration when the Family Court determines a property settlement. In 2001 The Family Law Council advised the Attorney-General to amend the Family Law Act 1975 to require courts to consider family violence when determining a property division. Would your party implement this recommendation? 

Q5. Family Report Writers are professionals (such as a social workers or psychologists) who are responsible for preparing reports to the Family Court on matters related to children's best interests. These reports are often very influential in Court decisions, and can have dangerous implications if they do not recognise or take into account family abuse or violence.

Would your party establish a national accreditation and monitoring scheme for all family report writers; with mandatory training on domestic violence, cultural competency and working with victims of trauma? 

For more information on scoring or to see the parties' responses to Fair Agenda's survey, click here.

 

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Authorised by Renee Carr, Fair Agenda, Suite 103, 55 Holt Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010