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.
Visit the Family Violence Law Help website for more information on domestic and family violence, family law, child protection law and services available for families who need to find help or learn about their legal rights.
Visit the Family Relationships Online website for more information about family relationship issues.
Women's Economic Security Package
As part of the Women's Economic Security Package announced on 20 November 2018, the Australian Government is investing $98.4 million in new funding from 2019-20 for family law services and initiatives. These initiatives and services will support women and their families to recover financially after separation. The package includes:
- $31.8 million over three years (ongoing) for existing Commonwealth-funded specialist domestic violence units (DVUs) and health justice partnerships (HJPs), to continue existing services and expand services to include integrated financial support services.
- $7 million over three years (ongoing) to establish the new Family Violence and Cross‑examination of Parties Scheme. Under the scheme, legal aid commissions in each state and territory are funded to provide legal representation to all parties subject to the ban on direct cross-examination in the Family Law Act 1975.
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 Parliament on 5 December 2018. The provisions in the Cross-examination Act commenced on 10 March 2019 and apply to cross-examinations from 10 September 2019.
The Cross-examination Act amended 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).
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 other expert reports.
Visit the Parliament of Australia website for more information.
Council of Attorneys-General Family Violence Working Group
Federal, state and territory governments share responsibility for effectively responding to family violence and child abuse. The states and territories have responsibility for the majority of laws related to family violence, including investigating and responding to child protection issues.
A Council of Attorneys-General (CAG) Family Violence Working Group of senior justice officials was formed in May 2017. The working group is developing measures to improve the interaction between the family law, child protection and family violence systems.
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 is progressing work on a range of issues including information sharing and improving family violence competency.
The family violence working group has successfully developed guiding principles for protecting vulnerable witnesses in family violence and family law proceedings, for use in all jurisdictions.
Download the guiding principles here:
Visit the Council of Attorneys-General page for more information and CAG meeting communiqués.
National Domestic Violence Order Scheme
All Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs) issued in an Australian state or territory from 25 November 2017 are automatically recognised and enforceable in all Australian states and territories. 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 federal, state and territory governments agreed to introduce the National Domestic Violence Order 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 policy responsibility for the scheme.
National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children
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.
Visit the Department of Social Services website for more information.
Fourth Action Plan
Announced on 5 March 2019, the government is investing $328 million to support the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022. As part of this funding package, the Attorney-General's Department is providing funding of $11 million to improve information sharing and coordination between the family law, family violence and child protection systems. This comprises:
- $10.4 million in seed funding to pilot a co-location model, which will embed state and territory family safety officials (such as child protection or policing officials) in family law courts across Australia.
- $0.582 million to scope technological solutions to facilitate timely information sharing between the family law courts and the family violence and child protection systems.
In further support of the Fourth Action Plan, the Australian Government is providing $7.84 million over three years from 1 July 2019 to employ dedicated men's support workers in Family Advocacy and Support Services registry and circuit locations. Dedicated men's support workers will provide access to appropriate support services for both male victims and alleged perpetrators of family violence with matters before the family law court. These services include parenting programs and men's behavioural change programs.
Visit the Fourth Action Plan website for more information.
Training for professionals working in the family law system
The Commonwealth is committed to improving the ability of professionals working in the family law system to understand family violence.
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 updated periodically to reflect the latest academic literature, legislation, legal processes and case law relating to domestic and family violence. 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. Visit the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration website to access the bench book.
Funding for judicial training
The Attorney-General's Department funded 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 was rolled out to judicial officers across Australia in 2017 and 2018. The training complemented 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. Visit the AVERT Family Violence website for more information.
On 31 March 2019, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) completed its 18 month comprehensive review of the family law system. The report, 'Family Law for the Future – An Inquiry into the Family Law System', considered whether, and if so what, reforms to the family law system are required to meet the needs of Australian families into the future.
Visit the Australian Law Reform Commission website for more information or to view this report.
In November 2010, the Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission released the report, 'Family Violence – a National Legal Response'. This report provides a detailed analysis of the Australian legal system's capacity to address family violence. The Australian Government's response to this report was published in June 2013.
- Government Response to the Australian and NSW Law Reform Commissions': Family Violence – a national legal response