Family Law Act changes that help women and children escaping family violence 

From 6 May 2024, changes to the Family Law Act in Australia will better help protect women and children escaping family violence. These reforms put a greater focus on a child’s safety and best interests as the primary consideration, with a child’s safety being one of six key factors a court must consider.  

When considering a child’s best interests, the court must consider any history of family violence involving the child or a person caring for the child, and any Family Violence Order that has applied or applies to them.   

The changes to the act also better recognise cultural needs for Aboriginal children.  

So, what could these changes mean for you? 

  1. Shift away from equal shared parental responsibility 

Under the new changes, Courts will no longer presume that it’s in the best interests of a child for their parents to have equal shared parental responsibility and make joint decisions about major long-term issues.

If there are no court orders in place, there is no change to the presumption which means separated parents each retain parental responsibility and can make decisions together or separately.  

  1. Honouring cultural rights for Aboriginal children 

There is now a standalone requirement for Courts to consider how parenting arrangements will help Aboriginal children to remain in contact with culture, community, family language and Country. Aboriginal families will see greater recognition of their cultural values and concept of family in the decision making process. 

  1. Focus on stopping systems abuse 

Courts now have greater powers to protect women and children from the harmful effects of protracted and vexatious litigation. They now have the power to make “Harmful Proceedings Orders” to stop proceedings they consider will be harmful to the respondent or to a child. 

  1. Amplifying children’s voices and regulating Family Report Writers 

Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICLs) are now required to meet with the children they have been appointed to advocate for, so that they can hear the children’s views.     

Also, a new power for the Government to create minimum standards for Family Report Writers has been established. This will lead to the Family Report process being more trauma informed and culturally safe for Aboriginal women who have experienced family violence and systems abuse. 

If you are an Aboriginal woman experiencing family violence, Djirra is here for you. 

Learn more about our Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service or contact 1800DJIRRA (1800 105 303) to speak with someone on our team.