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Rosie Batty urges gov to adopt new reform plan to keep women and children safe 

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Family violence campaigner Rosie Batty has joined forces with women’s legal services across Australia to call on the Federal Government to reform the family law system to keep women and children safe.

The former Australian of the year has endorsed a new five-step plan for reform, Safety First in Family Law, launched by Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA).

The Safety First plan, which includes five recommendations for reforming the family law system, can be implemented right now, and is based on research, evidence and key recommendations from previous family law inquiries.

Batty, who was driven to campaign to end family violence after her 11-year-old son was murdered, said it was critical for the government to act now to reform the family law system.

“Nearly 70 percent of matters lodged in the family courts involve allegations of family violence, but the system is not set up to deal with this – and neither are the many professionals who work within the system,” Batty said.

According to her, the family courts don’t have case management processes specifically designed for family violence cases, so safety risks are not being managed. This is putting women and children at grave risk.

WLSA spokesperson Helen Matthews said the government needed to show its commitment to ending violence against women. One step to achieving this is by implementing the reform plan developed by specialist women’s legal services around Australia.

“Women’s legal services across Australia work on the frontline to represent family violence victim survivors – we know just how urgent these reforms are, and how the current family law system is failing women and children,” Matthews said.

If the Government is serious about making the family law system safe for women and children, Mathews said, it must act and implement the recommendations.

Safety First five recommendations include strengthening family violence response in the family law system, providing effective legal help for the most disadvantaged, ensuring family law professionals have real understanding of family violence, increasing access to safe dispute resolution models, and overcoming the gaps between the family law, family violence and child protection systems.

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