On the 28th of June 2018, the Federal Government introduced amendments to the Family Law Act proposing that victims of family violence will no longer be subjected to cross-examination by their perpetrators in family law proceedings.
Prior to the proposed amendments, self-represented litigants have been able to cross-examine their ex-partners during the course of a trial, regardless of whether or not they’d been previously convicted of a family violence offence.
The change comes just under a year after former Attorney-General George Brandis released draft amendments on the matter, and approx. two years since the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommended the changes.
While many view the move as a welcome step forward for family violence survivors, there are concerns that the proposed legislation doesn’t do enough to protect the vulnerable parties.
Terri Butler, Shadow Assistant Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, took issue with the draft amendments and the possibility that the potential harm may not be adequately minimised.
“Instead of asking the questions themselves, [alleged attackers] will just slip a note to someone else who would then ask the questions on their behalf,” she said. (ABC News)
The amendments would also provide the Court discretion to, in the absence of family violence convictions but where allegations have been raised, facilitate other ways of evidence being given to the Court, including via video-link, from a safe room or with support persons.
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