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Professor Nicholas Bala

Sydney University Distinguisghed Speakers Program 2012

Has anyone heard of professor Nicholas Bala? I have recently come across some of his studies and he seems to have a lot to do with helping out with Australian studies to do with children and youth in seperation and domestic violence. Has anyone got an opinion on this professor and his credibility?
I heard him speak the other day. I reserve judgement on him.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on the site (Look for the Avatars).   Be mindful what you post in the public areas. 
While I repect your desire to reserve judgement, how is that helping the poster with her question? Hearing what it was about the speaker you liked or did not like would be more helpful.  I think she can handle your opinion, or are you not sure yourself what you think?
He was the distinguished professor a guest at the Sydney University "Distinguished Speaker Program 2012"

Professor Nicholas Bala - Is from the Faculty of Law, Queens Uni, Kingston, Canada

He is working with mental health professionals Peter Jaffe, Janet Johnston, and one other who I did not get the name of.
This year he has a book coming out on Parental Alienation which should be an interesting read.
Topics and coverage:
Trends in Family Life & Family Law
The Challenge of Parenting Decisions
The Complexity of Family Violence
Australia: Context & Developments
Suggestions for Decision-Making in Family Violence Cases

Cautionary Note: A quick survey of a range of broad and complex issues by a Canadian law professor with expertise in family violence and child-related legal issues, but only a perspective from afar about family justice in Australia.
What my learned colleague in law was eluding to is that he was supposed to speak on the 2011 Family Law amendments & Family violence "Has Parliament finally got it right"? However the night turned into a lecture on Family violence and the multitude of types of family violence prevalent in Canada. It seemed extremely biased and a number of practitioners there were somewhat dissapointed.

What we discovered was nothing really new.

Trends in Family Life and Family Law are changing

    Last 50 years changing gender roles
      ○ Women much more likely to be employed
      ○ Men having much greater role in child care
    In most families women still primary caregivers
      ○ Especially for younger children
There is a rise in divorce rates in all western countries
The problems of the Indissolubly of parenthood when parents separate.
Decline in fault in family law, especially adultery.
There is a growing use of non-Adversarial dispute resolution. (In Australia it is mandatory)
Gradual recognition of harms of spousal abuse
Child care decisions are very different in family courts compared to any other jurisdictions

The nature and complexity of spousal abuse was discussed at length
Wheel of power charts used
The Duluth model was shown and used by the Professor and discussed although some have already published about the overwhelming carnage to our society as a result of the DULUTH programme. It is said to be a damming epitaph for a Data-impervious paradigm and a a failed strategy, by Donald G. Dutton and Kenneth Corvo.
(I do recommend you read up on Dutton and Korvo)

He agreed the wheel was important and remains significant but it is time to move beyond the wheel as a thing of the past and look at more modern thinking.

Controversy and New Approaches
Wheel based on experiences in shelters only
   Males initiate violence to intimidate and control their partner
   Domestic violence now studied in wider sphere
        Women can be violent as well as men.

Domestic violence more recently studied in diverse settings:
 police & criminal court samples
 large community samples
 mediation samples
 batterer treatment groups  
 nationally representative samples
 inconsistent use of terms: abuse, violence,  batterer

Data and analysis from different populations created controversy between advocates, family justice practitioners, and researchers

Attempts to forge a consensus (Wingspread, 2007)

ABS stats 2004; stats Can 1996
50% women reported 1 assault
30% reported 2 to 10 assults

In Australian family court cases (AIFS, 2008)
26% of women & 18% of men report physical abuse
47% of men & 39% of women report emotional abuse

Violence radically de escalates when parties are not living together

Separation-engendered Violence
   Incidents only about separation and around early separation
Mental illness: psychotic or paranoid
One of the failings of legal and social system is we under diagnose these cases.

False & Exaggerated claims
He stated that while false allegations of spousal abuse by women are a concern, most claims by women are true
   Johnson (2005); Shaffer & Bala, 2003

My own view is very different from being involved in cases where fathers mostly and some mothers have been excluded from having contact with their children by an aggrieved other parent.

Gendered nature of spousal abuse:
Interactive violence is common
Women can be violent & abuse occurs in same-sex relationships

 Men are much more likely to seriously injure female partners (eg hospitalization)
 Women are much more likely to report fear for life due to spousal violence
 Men are much more likely to continue (or escalate) abuse after separation
 Post-separation homicides are almost always male perpetrated

False & exaggerated claims
Why are claims exaggerated
Men and women involved in Family litigation often lie equally
 In allegations of sexual abuse women are less reliable than men.

While false allegations of spousal abuse by women are a concern,  most claims of women are true
 Johnston (2005); Shaffer & Bala, 2003
Why are claims exaggerated/false?
 Access to services (eg shelter/legal aid)
 Tactical gain (possession of home)
 Police policies of arrest & charge
 Psychological needs/perceptions/social supports
 More false denials/minimization by abusers than false claims/exaggeration by spouse abuse victims
 Recanting by true victims more common than lying
 False withdrawal of true allegations by victim due to threats, guilt, economic concerns, restoration of relationship

Reliability of family litigants? (Johnston, 2005; Bala et al 2007)

 As a general rule, women and men involved in family litigation seem equally likely to have limited recall, exaggerate, distort and lie
 But they tend to be unreliable on different issues
  e .g. Moms more accurate about being assaulted by Dad, but less reliable sexual abuse of children
 Lying (knowing deception) is less common than selective recall or distorted understanding.
 In individual cases, either or both may be highly reliable about some or all matters -> challenge of credibility assessment

Australian Context & Developments
 Unquestionably Australia is a leader in dealing with family separation.
 NZ and Australia way ahead on funded services.
 We have the most complex legislation in the world.
 Statutory objectives , primary considerations, additional considerations etc.
 High quality of judicial appointments to the family bench
 High standard of research

2006 reforms implemented a presumption of shared parental responsibility for both parents to manage the big issues.

June 7th the new schedule 1 Act amendments come in (I have written up a list on the site for your review elsewhere)

He had comments about the value and concern about extending definition of Family Violence to include repeated derogatory taunts
   Is this really violence
      May lead to more litigation
60CC 2
Places violence at front of the list and could well make Family Violence the key issue now.
Risk Assessment already Recognised by Australian Courts
Lindsay & Baker

New Zealand had the best legislation
(Care of Children Act, 2011) 2011 amendments
   60) In considering …
Concluding thoughts and questions
Family violence is a complex , differentiated problem.
While most Australian Judges already prioritise safety, the new law is an important signal to mediators.
   Mediators need to identify cases that have family violence

   Need to have resources in place, good access to legal aid
   Lack of access to different IT systems in agencies was an issue
   A law wont deal with the issues as you need to have resources in place to deal with the issues
Guest comments
All matters regarding children should be taken to an independent body
Why do we have judges dealing with this rather than health professionals
   Recognise having the children involved

Response was that if you are going to make decisions that are binding you need judges
Other notes:
In the Professor's survey they called men as well as women to talk about family violence
In community based representative samples men were just as likely to report violence as were women.

Very different in child protection to make children safe and have their well-being of the child looked after
Jen Macintosh is developing some sort of an instrument.

Professor Bala said
Australia is a world leader in family law and many countries look to Australia.

Key points:
  •  Intensity of political advocacy by both womens & mens lobby groups
  •  Appropriate and exist everywhere, but most intense in Oz.
  •  Some scholars in many countries are doing advocacy research for both mens and womens groups
  •  Complexity & frequency of amendment of statute
  •  Statutory objectives, primary considerations, additional considerations etc.
  •  Government funding of services
  •  Family Relationship Centres, ICL, Family Consultants etc.
  •  Quality of judicial appointments to family bench
  • Research
  •  AIFS  best quality & most funding for family research
  •  Parkinson, Chisholm, McIntosh, Cashmore , Smyth etc.
  •  Judges writing articles; Altobelli, Bryant etc.

Last edit: by Secretary SPCA

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity

Summary from Professor Bala - The new law may have unintended negative consequences.

Summary: Australias post-separation parenting legislation is perhaps the most complex and frequently amended law of its kind in the world.

The 2011 amendments to the Family Law Act (in force June 2012), while welcome in some respects, also have significant limitations.

The new law emphasizes the importance of family violence, and should result in fewer settlements and mediated agreements that might endanger children.   

However, the amendments fail to provide clear guidance for decision-makers.While Australian judges can generally be expected to continue to exercise their discretion and take a balanced, protective approach to these challenging cases, the new law may have unintended negative consequences.

Enacting this law reflects an international trend of politicians to place too much emphasis on statutory reform and create unrealistic expectations for family justice, while failing to devote adequate resources to address problems. More effective responses to domestic violence require more resources for better, early assessment and investigation, and a better understanding by legislators of the complexity and heterogeneity of spousal violence.
The recent reform of family legislation in New Zealand, which directs courts about the factors to be taken into account in assessing risk, is a preferable model for statutory reform.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
Thanks for the info SPCA - this person seems to have a balanced perspective towards the issues.
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