Independent Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan AO, is standing up for women and children exposed to ongoing family violence by taking action to fix an inconsistency in our legal system.
Ms McGowan will move a Private Members’ Motion on Monday, October 19, calling on the Government to provide legislative protection for vulnerable witnesses in family law court proceedings. This will require an amendment to the Family Law Act to ensure that in family violence situations an unrepresented litigant, alleged or known to have been violent, is unable to directly cross-examine the victim.
Constituents, who have endured this experience, have raised the need for change with Ms McGowan.
Ms McGowan acted on these concerns and has been discussing the necessary law reform with politicians and legal experts.
A Notice of Motion when listed brings an individual issue to the attention of Parliament and allows politicians to debate the solutions needed to redress the issue.
In this instance, this Motion is an opportunity to address a deficiency in the family law Act.
Ms McGowan said she was humbled to be able to take action to represent the community about this issue.
A copy of the Motion can be found here.
Independent Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan AO, has urged the Federal Government to provide legislative protection for victims in family law court proceedings. Ms McGowan moved a Private Members’ Motion today in the Federation Chamber.
The Motion calls for an amendment to the Family Law Act to ensure that in family violence situations, an unrepresented litigant, alleged or known to have been violent, is unable to directly cross-examine the victim.
“I call on Attorney-General George Brandis to act swiftly and resolve this issue. Vulnerable witnesses need our protection. This is a sensible move and the right one for Government to take,” Ms McGowan said.
Constituents, including 'Eleanor' who has endured this experience, have raised the need for change with Ms McGowan. Ms McGowan acted on these concerns and has been discussing the necessary law reform advocates and health support agencies.
“It has been ignored because it was thought not many people were affected,” Ms McGowan said.
“But one person in this situation is one too many.”
Member for Dobell, Karen McNamara; Member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon; and Member for Moreton, Graham Perrett, joined Ms McGowan in speaking to the motion. Ms McGowan thanked her colleagues for their support and urged them to contact Mr Brandis and encourage his action.
The Women’s Legal Service Australia commissioned a survey to catalogue the experience of women survivors/victims of domestic violence of being personally cross examined by their abusers in family law proceedings.
The survey was distributed nationally in September 2015. As of today, they have received 270 responses. The survey remains open until 31 December 2015.
People wanting to fill out the survey should contact their State Women’s Legal Service to contribute.