Friday, April 23, 2010

Australia's Family Court Triage System

We don't get much news on the Family Court because of the secrecy provisions. Few researchers are allowed access to court records. Fewer statistics are made publicly available and are often selective no different than the climate deniers research where years were purposely removed to convey propaganda. What we do know is that there is a very small portion of children being protected from child abuse and an even smaller portion of women protected from family violence. "No Contact" cases are as low as 6%, despite 98.5% of fatal crimes committed against children were by a family member.
The acknowledgement that violence against women is disproportionate to violence against men in intimate partner relationships, is outside the confines of the family law research community.
Fused with a male dominated court culture where women lawyers obtain few positions and opportunities to appear before the court, the culture creates an atmosphere of contempt for mothers and a proprietary view of children. The court deals with both property and children within the same venue as if there were little difference. Psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers are internal and external experts are dismissed as the court contains patriarchal views.
A paper called, "Bad Mothers and invisible fathers" is correct to challenge the courts ignorance and negligence towards children and mothers experiencing family violence. The last two reforms have only made these cases worse and the consequences less visible to a public that would challenge them. The hierarchy of priority in Family Court cases is clear within its judgements as it is in the picture this article accompanies. The most important thing to the courts is funding and this is reflected in the way its programs are presented. For instance, the Magellan program is renown for its "efficiency" in dealing with child abuse. In other words, like the federal magistrates court the focus is to cut as many corners as possible with more cases and the exorbitant amounts of money that accompanies it. There is of course a great need to ensure that there is adequate funding for necessary luxuries such as fine bone china that costs 60k alone. The next level of importance is to serve the gender that is more likely to preserve their expensive taste and of course the gender that a male dominated culture can understand and relate with. The angry men's groups rhetoric is well served amongst this culture and in fact the differences are only in the dressing up of the language.
The mothers and children are of course at the bottom of the family court food chain. If the child does not support the fathers wishes, then their voice is unheard. If the mother raises violence, her claims are often treated by the courts as a 'nuisance", rather than something to be aware of.
Despite consistent global research supporting the fact that child abuse and family violence allegations are mostly true, the family court treats every allegation as though it were false. Evidence is routinely overlooked, no matter what the members have gone through to acquire it and most disturbing is the restriction of children to have access to specialists that can determine either way. The court in fact refers to such investigations as, "medical abuse". It is beyond clear that there is a crisis in Australian Family Courts. It is obvious that key stakeholders must be proactive in changing the culture to provide a safer standard to both the children and mother who is enduring family violence.

When family violence occurs, the focus needs to ensure that all victims are safe from harm. This is the only circumstances where the child and the parents best interests should be considered on the same level. Finding ways to stop family violence in the therapy area, is the job of the therapists and simply making orders of contact for all but the perpetrator to endure is not going to make the problem go away. The choice to cease those behaviours is the choice of the perpetrator alone. All members of society have tried different antidotes to convince the perpetrator to cease the violence to no avail. Most of the time attempts that have involved continuing the relationship has only exacerbated the situation. The power to abuse is what needs to be removed and considering some of the positions perpetrator's pursue, it can be a very difficult task at that.




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