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Chief Justice Bryant on Melbourne ABC Radio

Chief Justice Bryant was heard on radio in the last hour speaking on the Family Court and a little of the factors involved in the proceedings involved in a child being thrown from a Melbourne bridge.

The most compelling line was that according to the Chief Justice no mention was made in the proceedings alerting to the potential risk to the child. Her comments suggest that transcripts had been read, all material read. Consent Orders were effected so one wonders what transcripts were available.

Her comments about the lack of resources, judges and staff is a fair comment as it appears that the backlog is growing and that court delays are not appropriate in alleviating causal circumstances.

ABC websites have not put up anything I can find. Others may find what I have not and post reporting. Since the court has gone public it appears that the relevant sections have been shelved in this instance.

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha

Had a one line mention referring to the fact no evidence could be found of contact to the authorities.

A crime such as this never has an excuse in my opinion, I understand that the system needs work and pressures are intense but to kill a child is beyond my understanding.

Not undermining what has happened but I believe it has been driven on one major focal point and that is it was so public. It is terrifying that another human being could do this let alone in such a public fashion.

It makes me wonder if this had anything at all to do with the justice system as the act is simply insane, so much so that we find a need to blame something to give it some reason.

Even now I find it impossible to understand and though I have little sympathy for the father I wonder if even he understands what happened.

Sorry to lead your post in a different direction verdad.      

Family law problems out in the open

ABC > The World Today
6 February 2009


This is a transcript from The World Today. The program is broadcast around Australia at 12:10pm on ABC Local Radio.

You can also listen to the story in REAL AUDIO and WINDOWS MEDIA and MP3 formats.

Family law problems out in the open

Reporter: Simon Lauder

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The top judge of the Family Court of Australia has taken the extraordinary step of going on air to discuss the court in response to a family tragedy.

Four-year-old Darcey Freeman was allegedly thrown off Melbourne's West Gate Bridge by her father last week.

The girl's family says the judicial system failed her and will continue to fail families unless things change.

The Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant has told ABC radio the family court system needs to be better funded; it needs to be able to better help people enforce custody orders and it should also do more to help separated couples, after an order has been made.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: Family law issues usually have a very low public profile because of restrictions on reporting but there was widespread media coverage last week involving the tragic death of Darcey Freeman.

Her 35-year-old father will face a murder charge in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in May. The girl's uncle Tim Barnes has used a public statement to put the families legal struggle in the public arena and to plead for change.

TIM BARNES: For the past two years, the various authorities have been made aware of our fear for the safety of the children and unfortunately no one would listen.

We feel the judicial system has failed our family

SIMON LAUDER: The Commonwealth Attorney General Robert McClelland has responded by ordering his department to review the case. Mr McClelland says anything that can be learned from the tragedy will be acted on to improve the system.

Today the Chief Justice of the Family Court, Diana Bryant has also taken up the challenge appearing on ABC local radio in Melbourne. She says the court will cooperate with the review of the case but that won't involve explaining any of its decisions.

DIANA BRYANT: I'll go no further than saying two things.

One is that the orders were made by consent. That is they were not made by a decision of a judicial officer. Having said that, a judge can and often does refuse to make orders by consent if those orders do not appear to be in the interests of the child.

The second thing I would say in this case is that having reviewed all of the relevant material both administrative and what happened in court, the parties did not present to the judicial officer concerned as part of their case that this child was at risk of harm in the father's care.

SIMON LAUDER: In agreeing to discuss the case, Chief Justice Bryant makes it clear there are many stressful events when families break up and the court process is just one of them.

DIANA BRYANT: Everybody naturally wants to say well what was the last involvement and if the last involvement was an order of the court then people naturally want to say well it must be the court's fault but that is not necessarily the case. I mean it isn't the case.

There are so many factors that cause people to be distressed.

SIMON LAUDER: There's no shortage of suggestions on how the system can be improved.

This man says his wife killed herself and their child 10 years ago, as their custody dispute reached the court.

HUSBAND: Irrespective of whichever way the custody is being granted whether it be from mother to father or father to mother that on the day that the verdict is handed down, the child or children must be brought into the court and then left with the court councillor or administration and then the changeover is immediate. That there is no time frame for the parent who has lost custody to put plans in place to deal with the matter in their own way whether it by kidnapping the child or whatever it may be.

SIMON LAUDER: In the case of Ken Thompson, the family court has made an order allowing him to discuss his case publically. He's trying to track down his ex-wife and his four year old son who left the country after a parenting order was made.

KEN THOMPSON: I think people go into court sometimes with extremely high expectations and when the court doesn't deliver on those expectations, they sometimes take matters into their own hands as has happened in my case.

I think there could be a higher level or some kind of counselling provided during the process. Quite often people have to undergo mediation, compulsory mediation before getting to court. That wasn't the case in my case.

But I think once people get into court, they certainly need some kind of support and I think that could be provided through the court in some way.

SIMON LAUDER: Both of those cases have now been noted by the Chief Justice of the Family Court, and she says improvements can be made. Chief Justice Bryant says the court should give parents debriefing sessions after an order is made, to help them adapt.

Chief Justice Bryant is more than happy to identify the areas which need more resources.

DIANA BRYANT: Legal aid is essential. I think that funding of an appropriate counselling mediation system is essential and enough judicial officers to hear the cases in a timely way is essential.

SIMON LAUDER: Going into an under-resourced and adversarial court system with little support and no guarantee that orders will be complied with is a grim prospect for any parent. But Chief Justice Bryant says the Family Court is trying to bring in a less adversarial system in cases that have to go to trial.

And the fact that the court's problems are being openly discussed means it's possible some good may come from one tragic case, which has at least broken the usual silence surrounding Family Court affairs.

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