Published: 22 August, 2023

Media release: The Courts launch short films about family violence and how the voice of the child is heard in parenting cases

Today, the Courts officially launched three animated short films that will help educate the public about:

  • What is family violence in family law cases?
  • How is the voice of the child heard?
  • How does the court process work for parenting cases?

The Courts’ new films build on the existing online resources developed by the Courts in 2021 which focused on how to ‘separate smarter’.

Chief Justice the Hon Will Alstergren AO, said that the new short films provide information about difficult issues in a way that is easy to understand and will hopefully be a much-needed resource for people involved in family law disputes.

“Family violence in our society is a national disgrace. It has been reported that in the first 32 weeks of 2023, 44 women have been killed by violence. Likewise, Court data tells us that in the last financial year, family violence has been alleged in 83% of parenting cases. In 72% of parenting cases, it has been alleged that a child has been abused or was at risk of abuse. It is simply not acceptable.”

“Separation can be extremely stressful, and a time of heightened risk. It is important that those who engage with the court system know what to expect, and can have confidence that the Courts take family violence very seriously. We want people to feel safe to inform the Courts about the violence they have experienced, so that Judges can make decisions in the best interests of children.”

The Courts continue to shine a light on the insidious nature of family violence. These films add to the many other court initiatives, such as Lighthouse, the Evatt List, PPP500 and the updated Family Violence Plan and Best Practice Principles, that aim to prioritise the safety of children and adults who have been subjected to family violence.

“I also take this opportunity to welcome to the event today, the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC, MP. I acknowledge and commend the Government’s commitment to ending gender-based violence as outlined in the First Action Plan 2023-2027 and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan which were recently announced under the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032”, Chief Justice Alstergren added.

About the films

The first of the new short films aims to explain how family violence is defined in family law and provides examples of harmful behaviours, including physical and non-physical acts of violence, which constitute coercive control.

The second film on how the voice of the child is heard is very important and is an area that may not be well understood. The Courts are very fortunate in Australia to have an internal Court Children’s Service, staffed by highly trained and skilled psychologists and social scientists, ensuring that children’s voices may be heard in parenting proceedings. The film also outlines the important role of Independent Children’s Lawyers.

The third short film explains the typical court process and outlines how the Courts may provide support to children and families, particularly when family violence and other risk issues have been identified.

Representatives from various state Women’s Legal Services and others from the domestic violence advocacy sector provided invaluable input towards the scripts and development of the films, such as the decision to create the films in animation.

The short films are available from the Courts’ website, or from the following links:

Today’s key speakers

  • The Hon Chief Justice Will Alstergren AO
  • The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC, MP
  • Commissioner Tarang Chawla, Victorian Multicultural Commission
  • Ms Hayley Foster, Director – Family Violence and Indigenous Programs, Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia
  • Ms Sal Balharrie, Film-maker