Published: 19 April, 2024

Media Release: the Court convenes national roundtable discussions on domestic and family violence

Today, the Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA), the Hon William Alstergren AO is hosting an inaugural National Family Violence Symposium involving approximately 80 key stakeholders from every State and Territory representing the family violence and other related sectors such as those working in frontline services, government, academia, legal and victim support services.

“The prevalence of family violence throughout our communities is a national disgrace. We’re not even halfway through the year, and yet 28 women have reportedly been killed in 2024 so far. Family violence is simply unacceptable and it must stop,” Chief Justice Alstergren said.

“In recent years the FCFCOA has been actively focused on improving the identification of risk and making enormous change to how it responds to cases that involve allegations of family violence. Court data shows that the families that come before our Courts are, more often than not, faced with a range of complex issues. Approximately 91% of parenting cases have one or more major risk factors alleged (such as allegations of family violence, child abuse, serious mental health and substance misuse issues), and 69% of our parenting cases have four or more major risk factors alleged.

“Through recent and sophisticated risk assessment methods and sharing of information with police and child protection, the Courts have better and more timely access to critical information about the families and children involved in proceedings and the various risks facing those families. This information assists with better informed decisions around the safety and best interests of children.

“Although a significant amount of work has been done, especially by advocates, victim survivors, government and those working in the domestic and family violence sector, more can be done. This forum provides a platform for experts to come together in the one room to exchange insights, share information and explore opportunities to work together.

“It will help to build upon the important work already done, allow for continued engagement and provide a pathway towards action, with the shared objective of combatting and eradicating the unacceptable levels of family violence currently facing our nation,” Chief Justice Alstergren added.

The FCFCOA’s Director – Family Violence, Access, Equity and Inclusion, Ms Hayley Foster said that this event is the first time that the family law courts have convened such a meeting on this scale, and it is a unique opportunity for leaders at the forefront of preventing and responding to family violence to come together, share our expertise, and map an ambitious path forward.

“The FCFCOA is relied upon to set the tone for how families separate in the context of family violence in this country. That is why the Courts have implemented a suite of reforms to elevate the focus on safety and are working with leading experts, including those with lived expertise, to aim even higher. We, each of us, know that if we’re going to end gender-based violence in one generation, we need to take bold, innovative steps and target our collective expertise and resources towards evidence-based interventions that yield tangible results,” Ms Foster added.

Opening speakers include:

  • The Honourable Chief Justice Will Alstergren AO, Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia
  •  The Honourable Mark Dreyfus KC MP, Attorney-General for the Commonwealth of Australia
  • Commissioner Micaela Cronin, Commonwealth Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commission
  • Commissioner Tarang Chawla, Victorian Multicultural Commission

The symposium involves approximately 80 people representing a broad range of organisations including:

  • Domestic, family and sexual violence prevention organisations and support services,
  • Domestic, family and sexual violence legal services,
  • Women’s legal services,
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services,
  • Peak advocacy bodies for children, women and families,
  • Legal aid and the legal profession,
  • Support services for migrant and refugee women,
  • Organisations providing other supports to families and children after relationship breakdown,
  • People with lived experience of family violence,
  • Academics and peak research organisations on family, sexual and domestic violence, and
  • Representatives from key Federal and State Government Departments, Offices and Commissions.