In July 2017, the Federal Government revealed proposed amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) aimed to prevent victims of family violence parties in family law proceedings whom are victims of family violence from being questioned in Court in family law proceedings by perpetrators.
Currently, in proceedings in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court, alleged victims of family violence can be cross-examined by the alleged perpetrator of the violence. Due to cut-backs to Legal Aid, the number of self-represented litigants in Court continues to rise. Without a lawyer, the parties conduct their own representation which includes cross-examination of the parties. The Attorney-General’s Department has suggested in their report that being cross-examined by an alleged perpetrator “potentially exposes victims to re-traumatisation and can affect their ability to give clear evidence.”
The proposed method of addressing the issue is to have an examining party, not a party to the proceedings stand in the place of the alleged perpetrator to cross-examine the alleged victim. The intermediary will be appointed by the Court.
Is this the right way to go? Will it be enough? There is no doubt that change needs to occur but faces a huge challenge of the necessary legislative changes being made and the government providing adequate resources to the Court to make such a change effective.