A harrowing account of a woman's struggle to escape her abusive husband has sparked calls from NSW Premier Morris lemma for changes to co-parenting laws for separated parents. Under a massive overhaul of family law by the Federal Government in March, judges must consider granting parents equal time with their children after a family break-down. But Mr lemma said "it appeared the new laws were not working because they ended up, in some cases, having a perverse effect on women and children who had escaped abusive relationships."
Mr lemma made the comments after announcing an extra $28 million, four- year package to improve support services for victims of domestic violence. Details of the package were released ahead of today's White Ribbon Day, which aims to raise awareness of violence against women. Shortly before making his announcement to an audience of domestic violence support groups, Mr lemma heard one woman's disturbing tale of her battle to escape her abusive husband. The woman said she and her young son left her drug-dependent husband in 2000 after 10 years of emotional, physical and verbal abuse. But she had been ordered by the Family Court to adhere to a 50:50 shared parenting plan, which she said kept her at the mercy of her abusive former husband. Although the court ordered 50:50 parenting, these circumstances are not reflected in real life, she said.
The ill informed premier yesterday saidI would say that, certainly, the Federal authorities ought to heed the message of those victims who are now recounting how a black and white application of a 50:50 (co-parenting) rule, without taking into account circumstances, has the perverse effect of making life worse for the woman and for the child. Rather than making it better, it is actually increasing the harassment and the intimidation and prevents the mother and the child from rebuilding their lives.
These orders do not fit into narrow, predefined pigeon holes. The NSW Opposition spokeswoman on women's issues, Catherine Cusack, said "The State Government needed to do more to prevent deaths related to domestic violence". She called on the Government to set up a domestic violence homicide review team to mirror the work of the NSW child deaths review team.
Secretary of the Shared Parenting Council saidIt was not clear when this women received her court orders (likely some years ago) nor is the specific case indicated as having been reported on any of the Family court web sites. It is very doubtful such a situation would be ordered under the currently amended legislation as it stands today. There are many new sections that have been enhanced and added to further protect children and families from violence. It is simply nonsense for the NSW Premier to say the new laws are not working when he is highly likely talking about a case that happened many years ago!
The NSW Domestic Violence Committee Coalition and NSW Women's Refuge Movement have been calling for a review team, and drawing attention to the domestic violence-related deaths of at least 16 NSW women this year. Meanwhile, Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley pledged to set up a national council on violence against women and children if Labour wins government next year.