National Council for Children Post-Separation
Media Statement

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Report Shows Children at Risk But A-G Says "All Just A Misunderstanding"


The National Council for Children Post-Separation (NCCPS) welcomes the findings of the three reviews into the Howard Government 2006 shared parenting amendments but is concerned despite the myriad of recommendations to help make children safer, Attorney General Robert McClelland has flagged he is reluctant to change the law.

The Attorney General stated, "Effectively bush lawyers or pub lawyers are providing advice to people ... which is wrong and that can, it seems on the evidence, result in misunderstandings."

The NCCPS has spoken to many parents whose own lawyers have told them not to raise allegations of violence and abuse, including one mother whose daughter had a photograph of hand-print welt on her daughter's back. The lawyer stated, "the court wonít like it".

Despite all three reviews saying family violence and children's best interests are not properly addressed in the badly and hastily drafted 2006 amendments, the Attorney General thinks the problems can be fixed by 'education' campaigns to professionals.

Since the NCCPS's national protests against the amendments staged on May 3, participating parents now feel vindicated that three separate reviews have upheld our concerns that the current system is failing children.

Particularly pleasing is that one of our recommendations made to the Attorney General's review by Richard Chisholm has been mentioned as a possible change which was our suggestion that Australia follow Canada's lead and look at parentsí involvement with their children pre-separation in determining access and custody post-separation.

One parent, who cannot be named, said pre-separation the partner had never bathed, fed, dressed, read a story to or taken their four-year-old daughter to childcare and, a year after separation the child was still begging not to go on access visits.

Many other parents have been forced to send their children to abusive and violent parents are part of court ordered custody visits with the parentís right to see the child being placed over and above the wellbeing of the child. (Picture attached)

Many NCCPS members have been anxiously awaiting changes to the legislation, but now, despite three reviews all pointing to problems, Attorney General McClelland appears to be whitewashing the findings by repeating FCA Chief Justice Diana Bryant's comments last year that the problems were simply due to 'misunderstandings'.

'If a law can be so widely and comprehensively misunderstood by so many in the legal profession, how could that law be considered adequate when it deals with the childhoods and futures of the most vulnerable in our society?' said NCCPS founder, Barbara Biggs.

'Try telling Darcey Freeman's family or Dionne Fehring who lost her two children in a murder suicide by their father who was awarded interim custody, that the current laws were simply misunderstood by judges and others in the legal profession.

'What was the point of a 1000-page AIFS review, a 300-page AG and Family Law Council reviews, all at great cost to the community, if, because we are in an election year, the best the Attorney General can come up with is saying 'it's all a misunderstanding'!

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