14 ways to make family law better for everyone

CPSU members in the Federal Court, Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia are committed to proper functioning family law courts and assisting Australians who need them.

That’s why the CPSU has made a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into a better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence.

The Inquiry has taken submissions and will be holding hearings into ways to improve the family law system, including the Courts, handle family violence issues.

Big challenge

Courts staff are predominantly women (74.0%) and amongst the lowest paid in the APS (in the bottom ten agencies for all classifications). Courts workers are dedicated and compassionate, working in an emotionally, and sometimes physically volatile environment. Most are long term employees, specialised in their area of service.

The Courts have been caught in successive years of Budget cuts and workers have been subjected to the Government’s protracted attempts to cut pay, rights and conditions. Both these factors have placed a huge strain on workers and Courts operations.

14 ways to make family law better for everyone

The recommendations from the CPSU's submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into a better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence are:

  1. Charge the Courts with investigating and implementing appropriate Workplace Health and Safety Procedures to ensure the safety of clients of the Courts while onsite and Courts' employees.
  2. Fund additional staff to reduce client waiting times at the front counter and ensure better oversight of the electronically filed material.
  3. Provide an immediate $6 million one off funding allocation to provide additional training and to introduce further initiatives that will assist the Courts to quickly identify and assess issues of family violence. As identified by the Court's Family Violence Committee 1, and consistent with the Women's Legal Services Safety in Family Law 2016 plan.
  4. Reduce the number of self represented litigants by increasing the long term funding to legal aid and community legal centres, including specialist services for women seeking support for family violence, not just reversing cuts.
  5. Provide at least $14 million additional ongoing funding allocation to properly resource the Courts for family violence initiatives, including employing additional Family Consultants as employees of Courts.
  6. Ensure separate operational and judicial expenses in budget allocations to end financial pressures that are affecting the Courts functions. Any increase in judges needs to be accompanied by additional and commensurate funding for administrative staff and support functions.
  7. In respect of the Budget 2017-2018 decision to provide $12.7m over four years for Parenting Management Hearings, this should include on site free advice to self-represented litigants in relation to family violence issues and should not extend to property matters.
  8. Charge the Courts with investigating and implementing a docket process whereby a Courts' Client Service Officer has responsibility to ensure all safety measures are identified early and are followed up at every Court event. Any funding to implement to be provided by the Government.
  9. Support the expansion of Family Advocacy and Support Services in the Courts across Australia.
  10. Provide funding for the appointment of more Registrars to cover gaps in regional circuits and to better manage workloads.
  11. Appoint judges to the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court with identified expectations to service regional Australia with in face hearings.
  12. Visit regional Federal Circuit Courts and Family Courts without public notice to see the issues raised first hand.
  13. Ensure funding announced in the 2017-18 Budget for more Family Consultants goes to directly employed Family Consultants.
  14. Commit to providing additional funding for ongoing training of Courts' staff, especially in strengthening their capacity and capability to respond to vulnerable clients.

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