22 November 2016

Today I announce Labor’s commitment to pursuing reforms to the Family Court to prevent domestic violence victims being cross-examined in court by their abusers. 

This is a shocking practice which must be stopped as soon as possible. 

Subjecting victims to hostile questioning by the perpetrators of domestic violence in court inflicts new and fresh trauma, and often makes victims reluctant to take their cases to court. 

This is unacceptable. 

The Government has long promised to address this situation but unfortunately Malcolm Turnbull has failed to act. 

This reform should not have to wait for a Labor government – we call on Prime Minister Turnbull and Senator Brandis to act now. 

As part of our policy pledge, Labor is committed to:

  • Amending the Family Law Act 1975:
    • To compel a judge to consider, when domestic violence is alleged, whether any vulnerable witness should be protected during court proceedings under a range of mechanisms already available under the Family Law Act 1975 using existing resources and facilities; and
    • So that if the judge believes that the available mechanisms under the Family Law Act 1975 are insufficient to protect a vulnerable witness, the judge is empowered to direct that all unrepresented litigants in the matter be represented by Legal Aid.
    • Committing $43.2 million over four years to Legal Aid, to ensure both parties in a domestic violence case can be adequately represented without the need for personal cross-examination.

This reform has been called for by survivors of abuse, families and activists for years. It is not acceptable that the Government has so far failed to act. 

The Turnbull Government has made many promises on domestic violence, but is yet to deliver on the majority of them. 

Six months ago the Government finally agreed to consider the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to prevent perpetrators of family violence from personally cross-examining their victims. However, we still haven’t seen a formal response. 

Last year the Government announced it would spend $12 million on trialling the use of innovative technology to keep women safe. From that money, only $180,000 has been delivered so far. 

And the Government has already thrown Legal Aid and Community Legal Centres (CLCs) into crisis with its cruel funding cuts. The 30 per cent funding cliff faced by CLCs in July next year will make a bad situation even worse. Only a fraction of the much-lauded $30 million domestic violence package announced by Mr Turnbull recently will go to legal services – it is not enough. 

The prevalence of family violence in Australia is not just a national disgrace, it is a national crisis. 

The Turnbull Government must do better to combat this crisis. 

Labor is committed to an Australia free from domestic and family violence. 

Today, we renew that commitment to work tirelessly towards this goal.

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000”