Family Law Reform Council: Media Release
PROTECTIVE parents and law reform advocates called for concrete action today in the wake of the National Apology to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.
Family Law Reform Council Co-Director, Mishka Hudson, has demanded the urgent application of the findings of the Royal Commission to Australia’s family law system.
“Most child sexual abuse occurs in family contexts,” Ms Hudson said. “This was not addressed by the Royal Commission, and not directly encompassed in the PM’s National Apology speech.”
During his delivery of the National Apology to victims of child abuse in Canberra today the Prime Minister acknowledged that “the many survivors who were abused in their own homes” were not covered by the Royal Commission. In response, Mr Morrison announced the establishment of a national research centre aimed at understanding the impacts of child sexual abuse and developing “best practice for training and other services.” However, he stopped short of mentioning the family law system.
In his response to the apology, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the findings of the Royal Commission must apply to all Australians, not only those who were abused in institutions.
“We are sorry that the abuse of children is still going on right here in this country … Too many Australian children are still living unsafe lives,” Mr Shorten stated. “We hear you now,” he said.
Mr Shorten continued, “the words of this apology must come with action,” noting this is “the true test of our words.”
However, Ms Hudson expressed concern at Mr Shorten’s description of children escaping institutions to report abuse, only to be returned by police to these abusive situations. “Do our leaders understand that this occurs every day to Aussie kids under Family Court recovery orders?” she asked. “Do they fully comprehend that parents and children who report abuse to our police and child protection departments are ridiculed and disbelieved when they explain their case is before the Family Court?” she asked.
When sexual abuse occurs in the home, child protection issues are commonly dealt with by Australia’s family law system, including the family courts, state police and child protection departments.
“The family law system is in crisis,” said Ms Hudson. “It is critical that the work of the new research centre applies, directly and urgently, to our family law system, including our family courts, police and child protection departments”.
“The vast majority of Australians would agree that children need to be protected from sexual abuse, wherever it occurs,” Ms Hudson said. “Our Prime Minister said, ‘I believe you. We believe you. Your country believes you.’ If this is so, the Government will take action to protect all Australian kids, immediately, by applying the findings of the Royal Commission directly Australia’s family law system.”
“We need concrete action to protect Australian kids – right now, today.”