Building a Better AustraliaMake Australia Great
Senator BURSTON (New South Wales) (16:21): Nelson Mandela once stated there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. What does it say about us as a society when we allow so many men and boys to commit suicide, an entirely preventable outcome? Why do we provide almost no support for males? Why do we provide almost nothing for male victims of domestic violence, preferring to sweep it under the carpet along with male suicide rates? Why do we continue to cling to the paradigm that men cannot love their children as much as women can and do?
One Nation recognises and appreciates the unique and exceptional role that both mothers and fathers play in the lives of ordinary Australian families. However, the history within the Family Court of Australia has been marked over many years by controversy and criticism regarding the handling of family law matters, particularly domestic violence issues; the long waiting times; and staff shortages. Further, the Department of Human Services organisation the Child Support Agency has a long history of financially gutting non-custodial parents in a relentless strategy that seems aimed at rendering their victims insolvent.
The legislation is fairly sound and does not need to be changed much if applied correctly and fairly. The problem is it often is not applied fairly. It is not a gender issue but, because the majority of non-custodial parents are fathers, men usually end up being the ones most affected by the actions of this group of individuals. At a societal level, one of the unintended side effects of marriage breakdown is the high incidence of suicide. It is one of the most pressing issues of our time and predominantly impacts males. It depletes our productivity and destroys families. It cannot totally be eradicated, but it can be substantially reduced.
For many years the Family Court of Australia has been in effect a constitutional free zone. Today we see tens of thousands of Australian children being allowed or forced to experience such abhorrent trauma at the hands of the Family Court. Many children are growing up without one of their parents or other loving family members. Often children are forced to live in a psychologically abusive environment as a direct result of the actions or inactions of our adversarial Family Court system. In addition, many more are left in physically abusive environments by a system that does not have the expertise to make the life-changing decisions that it makes each and every week.
While it is a sad and unfortunate reality that relationships do break down, it is vitally important that we find the best way forward in dealing with marital breakdowns to minimise the damage, particularly to children. Throughout our Family Court system, our children are being forcibly removed from innocent parents and grandparents on false allegations every day in Australia. Some of these children are being forcibly adopted while children in need of intervention and protection are being ignored and left in unsafe environments to suffer further harm. The child safety authorities in Australia are not being held accountable for their actions, and this breeds incompetence and corruption. Families in need of support are not being given the help they need and their families are being ripped apart, resulting in unnecessary trauma.
The Family Court of Australia, as it operates today, is not a safe place for parents, who care about their children, nor is it a safe place for children. One Nation considers that the current family law system needs an overhaul, and we welcome the current announcement by the government to review and reform the Family Law Act 1975. However, in saying that, I think there is an urgency to finalise the terms of reference to the Australian Law Reform Commission for this review to progress immediately.