How Times Change
In Light of Recent Statements was this report a Lie??????
It is to be asked: "If we had no respect for family courts then, and this person running our family court system has openly come out and said all court decisions should go in women's favour, in by not supporting equal time, when there is no abuse or violence and encouraging false claims of such by wanting to return to the bad old days when there was no recourse for making false statements. How can we have respect for the courts now?"
The World Today - Diana Bryant new Chief Justice of the Family Court
The World Today - Thursday 8 July 2004 12:30:00
Reporter: Rachel Carbonell
ELEANOR HALL: Australia's Family Court entered a new era this morning with the swearing in of Diana Bryant as the court's new Chief Justice.
She takes over from one of the country's most controversial judicial figures Alistair Nicholson who has stepped down after 16 years at the helm.
Alistair Nicholson had a fraught relationship with the Federal Government, most recently taking it to task over plans to establish a less adversarial tribunal system, which would not place such reliance on judges and lawyers.
Chief Justice Diana Bryant is taking a more 'wait and see' approach to the idea, and admitted she's not likely to be as outspoken as her predecessor. She says her top aim is to win public respect for the court, something she thinks the Family Court is sadly missing.
Rachel Carbonell reports from Melbourne.
RACHEL CARBONELL: There was no stiff ceremonial sitting to swear in Diana Bryant this morning, but a packed court of friends and colleagues watched as she took her oath of allegiance.
DIANA BRYANT: I, Diana Bryant, do swear that I will be faithful and be of true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors according to law.
I, Diana Bryant do swear that I will well and truly serve in the office of Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and that I will do right to all manner of people according to law without fear or favour, affection or ill will, so help me God.
RACHEL CARBONELL: She takes over the job after four years as the Chief Federal Magistrate. Today's swearing in was over in five minutes. The new Chief Justice moved quickly to explain to the waiting media what kind of an attitude she'll be taking to the top job.
DIANA BRYANT: I think the biggest challenge is to try and earn the respect for the court from the public. I think it's really distressing to me to see that a public institution like the Family Court doesn't have the respect of the public, and I think that there's an educational process to be gone through, and I'm very keen to see that happen.
And if at the end of my tenure I could improve the understanding of the court and have the respect of the public for the court, that would be something I would be very proud of. I know that the Family Law decisions are difficult. I know that you can't expect people to be happy with what happens and decisions in the Family Court, but I really would like to see the institution to have a bit more respect and understanding.
RACHEL CARBONELL: When asked why she thought the court lacked the respect of the public, Chief Justice Bryant was careful to step around some of the more prickly criticism that the court has attracted in the past, particularly that of fathers and their supports who say the system favours women.
DIANA BRYANT: I think there's a long history to the family court which would take me days and hours to explain to you, but I think first of all it's a difficult area, and I think that when you have family breakdown, I mean that's a pretty stressful and traumatic time for everybody.
People are upset, they're distressed, they're in pain. I mean, it's a really tough time for families. And when they can't resolve their disputes and they have to come to a court to resolve them for them, I mean no one's every going to go away happy with those results, and so the very nature of the work makes it tough.
And I think there's a long history to the court over the years that it hasn't had the respect that it deserves and I'd really like to try and change that.
RACHEL CARBONELL: Her diplomacy was perhaps a taste of things to come, the New Chief Justice admitting she's not likely to be in the headlines as much as her predecessor Alistair Nicholson.
DIANA BRYANT: I think you could probably judge the way I am on what I've been like in the last four-and-a-half years as Head of the Federal Magistrates Court. It isn't my natural inclination to be outspoken. And I think that there are real sensitivities in family law anyway.
I mean, there might be cases in which it is important to speak out or you want to speak out, but I personally think it's always important to remember that 50 per cent of the litigants are men, and 50 per cent of the litigants are women. And I think that one has to be very sensitive to making comments, which might make one or other of those groups perceive the court to be biased.
RACHEL CARBONELL: While clearly in favour of the family court pilot currently being trailed in Parramatta in Sydney, that is more Judge-directed and less adversarial, Chief Justice Bryant was most careful about what she said about the Federal Government's proposals to establish a tribunal to hear family matters.
The tribunal system would be a move away from lawyers and judges and Alistair Nicholson expressed strong resistance to the idea, something Diana Bryant is clearly not prepared to do.
DIANA BRYANT: I'm waiting with interest as I'm sure everyone else is, to see what happens with that. But I mean, the court will do whatever role the Government requires it to do, and legislates for it to do.
REPORTER: So you'd expect to be consulted about it before any decision is made?
DIANA BRYANT: I don't know. As I said I think we're all just waiting to see what the Government does.
REPORTER 2: Chief Justice, when you accepted the position, did the Government make it clear they wanted a lower profile for the court?
DIANA BRYANT: I can assure you that I have absolutely no riding instructions from anybody about anything.
ELEANOR HALL: The new Chief Justice of the Family Court, Diana Bryant.
[This is the print version of story http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2004/s1149503.htm]