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 Family violence

The Australian Government is firm in its view that family violence is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.

The Australian Government is committed to taking action to prevent family violence and abuse, and to improving the protections offered through the family law system to those affected by violence and abuse.

The Family Relationships Online website has information about services for families affected by family violence.

Budget measures

As part of the 2017-18 Budget, the Australian Government announced a number of initiatives to further improve the family law system, including its response to family violence. These include:

  • $55.7 million for community legal centres, directed to front-line family law and family violence services
  • $10.7 million for the family law courts to employ additional family consultants. Family consultants are qualified social workers and psychologists who prepare family reports to inform the court about risks to family safety
  • $12.7 million to establish Parenting Management Hearings, a new forum for resolving family law disputes between self-represented litigants
  • $3.4 million to expand the national pilot program for Specialist Domestic Violence Units to six additional locations across Australia. The Specialist Domestic Violence Units provide wrap‑around legal and other support services to women who are experiencing, or at risk of, domestic and family violence
  • A comprehensive review of the family law system, to be conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission, to ensure that the family law system meets the contemporary needs of families and effectively addresses family violence and child abuse.

Amendments to the Family Law Act 1975

Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Act 2018

The Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross‑examination of Parties) Act 2018 (the Cross‑examination Act) was passed by the Parliament on 5 December 2018 . The provisions in the Cross-examination Act will not commence until 11 March 2019 and will then apply to cross-examinations that occur six months after commencement.

The Cross-examination Act amends the Family Law Act 1975 to ensure that appropriate protections for victims of family violence are in place for cross-examination in all family law proceedings involving allegations of family violence. Under the Act, direct cross-examination is prohibited in certain circumstances, and must instead be conducted by a legal representative. Legal representation may be arranged privately or through legal aid. Where direct cross-examination is not prohibited, the court must apply other appropriate protections for the victim (such as using video link or screens).

On 20 November 2018, as part of the Women's Economic Security Package, the Government announced that it will provide ongoing funding to the new Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties Scheme. Under the Scheme, legal aid commissions will be funded to provide legal representation to parties subject to the ban on direct cross-examination in the Act. More information about the Cross-examination Act is available from the Parliament of Australia website.

Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018

The Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018 commenced on 1 September 2018.

The Act enhances the capacity of the justice system to provide effective outcomes for vulnerable Australians who are experiencing family violence. It amends the Family Law Act 1975 to improve the family law system's response to family violence, and the intersection of the federal family law and state and territory family violence and child protection systems.

The Act implements recommendations of the Family Law Council's 2015 and 2016 reports on Families with Complex Needs and the Intersection of the Family Law and Child Protection Systems, and of other expert reports.

More information about the Act is available on the Parliament of Australia website.

Council of Attorneys-General Family Violence Working Group

Effectively responding to family violence and child abuse is a responsibility shared by federal, state and territory governments. The states and territories have responsibility for investigating and responding to child protection issues, as well as for the majority of laws related to family violence.

The Australian Government acknowledges that the separation of the federal family law and state and territory child protection and family violence systems can place children and families at increased risk of harm.

A Council of Attorneys-General Family Violence Working Group of senior justice officials was formed in May 2017 to develop measures to improve the interaction between the family law, child protection and family violence systems. More information is available on the Council of Attorneys-General page.

The family violence working group is co-led by the Commonwealth and Victoria, and is chaired by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department. The working group has seven terms of reference which include examining the following issues: information sharing, risk identification and assessment, improving family violence competency, legislative and other protections for vulnerable witnesses, expanding the jurisdiction of state and territory magistrates to utilise family law to help keep families safe and criminalising personal protection injunctions made under the Family Law Act.   

National Domestic Violence Order Scheme

Domestic violence orders issued from 25 November 2017 are automatically recognised and enforceable in all Australian jurisdictions. Under the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme, individuals protected by a domestic violence order issued before 25 November 2017 may apply to any local court in Australia to have it recognised.

The National Domestic Violence Order Scheme, launched on 25 November 2017, enables the automatic recognition and enforceability of domestic violence orders issued in one Australian jurisdiction in all other jurisdictions. The federal, state and territory governments agreed to introduce the scheme through the Council of Australian Governments. The scheme represents a significant step towards further protecting and empowering families as they build new lives, safe and free from violence.

The Department of Home Affairs has responsibility for the scheme.

National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women

The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments and released in February 2011. The National Plan is being delivered over 12 years through a series of four three-year action plans. Further information about the National Plan is available from the Department of Social Services website.

Third Action Plan

Under the Third Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, the government provided $30 million over three years to legal assistance and family relationship providers. As part of this funding package, the Attorney-General's Department is providing funding of:

  • $6.2 million for Family Relationship Centres to deliver legally-assisted and culturally‑appropriate family dispute resolution to separating and separated families from Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds experiencing family violence
  • $18.5 million to legal aid commissions to deliver integrated duty lawyer and family violence support services in family law court registries around Australia. These services are known as 'Family Advocacy and Support Services'.
  • $5 million to extend funding for specialist domestic violence units and health justice partnerships pilots.
Further information about the specialist domestic violence units and health justice partnerships is available on the family law and child protection collaboration page.

Training for professionals working in the family law system

Improving the ability of professionals working in the family law system to understand family violence dynamics is a priority for the Commonwealth.

National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book

The Attorney-General's Department commissioned National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book was completed in June 2017. The bench book is a national online resource for judicial officers which promotes best practice and consistency in judicial decision making in cases involving family violence. The bench book is available on the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration website.

Funding for judicial training

The Attorney-General's Department is funding the National Judicial College of Australia to develop and deliver training for judicial officers, to increase their awareness and understanding of family violence. This training commenced in 2017 and continues to be rolled out nationally in 2018. The training builds on the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book.

AVERT family violence: collaborative responses in the family law system training package

The Addressing Violence Education Resources and Training (AVERT) package for trainers is designed to give professionals a sound and practical understanding of family violence and promote the safety of those involved in the family law system. The package was developed by Relationships Australia South Australia, and caters for a range of professionals working in the family law system. For more information or to get a package, visit the AVERT Family Violence website.​​​​​​​​​