Queensland Law Society

Domestic and Family Violence Best Practice Guidelines Launch

Domestic and Family Violence Best Practice Guidelines Launch

Wednesday 27 July, The Gallery, QEII Courts, Brisbane

Opening address, president

  • We are here tonight to launch a document that is as important for the legal profession as it is for the wider community.
  • Domestic and family violence is clearly a scourge on our community – isolated victims who need compassion, sensitivity, hope and the assurance that they are not alone.
  • It is us as a community who must step in and assist in these times to ensure that victims become survivors.
  • The Protea of the Not Now, Not Ever report reads: “Domestic violence can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or wealth, where they live or their cultural background. Those who are affected by this insidious form of violence show enormous courage in telling their stories in their own words.”
  • It is up to us as a community to take a stand against domestic and family violence. To protect the vulnerable, to prosecute the perpetrators and to make it clear that enough is enough. To ensure that the message of “Not now, not ever” rings clear throughout our State.
  • The purpose of the law is to regulate human behaviour.
  • This is certainly no easy task, with family law an area of much importance in modern Australia, and the way families respond to the end of a relationship determining the outcome for their children.
  • Some families manage this situation better than others, and as a community, how we assist these families in reaching useful and peaceful outcomes that focus on the children reflects on us all.
  • To quote Justice Anne Demack’s inaugural speech at the Rockhampton Federal Circuit Court – “As a society, we are sufficiently advanced to understand and accept that emotionally healthy childhoods are the best environment for creating emotionally healthy adults, and that as a community, we strive to produce emotionally healthy adults.”
  • It is the best interests of the children that we should be primarily focused on when determining their arrangements. If we as a community see the parents and family struggling then we must step in – whether that is through government services or the dispute resolution process.
  • Yes, we must recognise privacy in personal relationships, but, it is when these private relationships spill into public domain, that the question is – at what point do we as a community have to step in and make what is private, public to create change?
  • I believe that the purpose of the law is to address the private. To address the silences, the spaces, and to address what was once a silent shame.
  • Domestic and family violence is now in the public eye more than ever – but there is always more to be done and more people to be saved.
  • Those who work in family law understand that solving these conflicts take time and are not resolved overnight. Skilled lawyers are required, as well as Legal Aid funding, prevention programs and government assistance.
  • These cases also require a human component of sensitivity, compassion and support for those affected by domestic and family violence. We must be able to assist the parents with useful ways to move forward, allow the court to follow process and discover opportunities for negotiating outcomes.
  • To gain these good outcomes, the government needs to provide the courts with the sufficient resources to respond properly to create the best chance at a positive outcome for the children.
  • The Not Now, Not Ever report, provided a step forward for the profession – specifically charging the Society with the responsibility of providing guidance to practitioners dealing with domestic and family violence in their day-to-day legal practice.
  • A total of four of 140 of the recommendations placed the onus on QLS.
  • The QLS Domestic Violence Working Group was established in June 2015, with subsequent research and consultation across a broad range of key stakeholders resulting in the Society producing the guidelines as a reference tool for practitioners.
  • It is indeed a pity and a tragedy to require such laws and guidelines such as these.
  • As Bertolt Brecht wrote in his 1939 play “Life of Galileo” – “pity the country that needs heroes and unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.”
  • We may not have a real-life Superman or Wonder Woman, but we have a police service and a court system passionate about making a difference in the lives of those suffering the impacts of domestic and family violence.
  • Of course, we recognise that for laws and guidelines such as this to remain relevant, they must be regarded as a living document. These guidelines are not carved in stone and must be responsive to change.
  • Further to these guidelines, the Society is also working to design and implement professional development seminars to guide practitioners through their service to clients in this key area.
  • In particular, I would like to thank the Chair of the DV Working Group, Deb Awyzio, and members of the working group for their time in consultation and drafting these guidelines.

Disclaimer: This speech has had minimal edits for the purpose of publication.