The Coalition calls on the Labor Government to launch an inquiry into reforming the Family Law Act 1975 to consider the most effective way for family and domestic violence to be considered by the courts in Hague Convention cases. Including the consideration of how domestic violence is applied under the grave risk of harm exception, given that violence perpetrated against a parent has not been recognised as constituting grave harm to the child.
The 1994 Australian Law Reform Commission report, Equality before the Law: Women’s Equality, recommended domestic violence be better taken into account in Hague Convention cases. Since that time, we have seen the courts place inadequate weight on evidence of domestic and family violence with catastrophic result, and some judges have criticised the current state of the law.
Earlier this year, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus vowed, “if Labor is elected, I will seek advice on what changes could be made to ensure The Hague Convention cannot be abused, and whether its implementation could be made safer for women fleeing violence.”
We call on the Labor Government to urgently review this aspect of the law.
The courts giving insufficient weight to evidence of family and domestic violence in Hague Convention cases can have devastating consequences. One Australian woman who took her newborn daughter and fled from her abusive partner in Europe, is now facing the prospect of being forced to return to the country of her abuser. This Australian mother has started a petition calling for law reform, the petition has garnered more than 18,000 signatures. Hague Convention mothers deserve to be heard, and their situations taken seriously.
The application of the law relating to the Hague Convention should reflect the broader values of the Australian community when it comes to dealing with domestic and family violence.