This week marks National Child Protection week in Australia. The theme is ‘Every child, in every community, needs a fair go. To treat all of Australia’s children fairly, we need to make sure every family and community has what kids need to thrive and be healthy’.
Part 2: How to respond and where to get help:
At Hillsong, we have a Domestic Violence Working Group that meets regularly. This group represents a range of professionals – from IT, HR, Safe Church Department, education and psychology professionals along with pastoral staff – to review and implement best practise models of care and response in the area of intimate partner and domestic family violence.
Due to the prevalence of family violence in Australia, as described in Part 1 of this blog – it makes sense that we all have an awareness and understanding of what to do, and where to go for help – in a way that is safe and does not put anyone in a position of harm or danger.
What can I do if I am experiencing Family Violence?
- Speak to a trusted friend or relative. Everyone needs someone to talk to. When I meet clients for the first time, I am often trying to find out what support systems they have in their life and encourage them to have a friend to walk the journey with them.
- If you are in immediate danger – call the Police.
- Call 1800RESPECT for confidential advice from trained counsellors, who can provide support and guidance, and advise of appropriate services in your area. This service operates 24 hrs/ 7 days a week and has language and translation services available. 1800respect.org.au/help-and-support/telephone-and-online-counselling
- Develop a safety plan with the help of a specialist counsellor or support worker – including a safety plan for your children to use too.
- If you are feeling threatened or scared, you can apply for a Family Violence Order from the Police or the Local Court or Magistrates’ Court.
- Ask a Pastor for assistance.
How to spot Family Violence in your own life or that of a family member or friend
- Ask ‘are you ok?’ – If you notice that a family member or friend seems to be retreating or missing your calls or texts, ask them what is happening in their life take the time to ask whether they are ok. If the person is under lockdown (but not quarantine) ask them to go for a walk with you.
- If the person is not communicating with you and you have serious concerns for their welfare or safety, contact the Police and ask them to complete a welfare check on the person.
- If they admit that they are experiencing Family Violence and require some respite, offer them a place to stay – despite the lockdowns in Australia, if a person is experiencing Family Violence this is a reasonable ground to leave their house.
- Encourage them to speak to the Police if they are in immediate threat of danger. In the event that they are unwilling to do this, contact the Police and ask them to complete a welfare check on the person.
- Encourage them to speak to a Lawyer to obtain some advice unique to their family situation.
- Encourage them to speak to Centrelink if they are experiencing financial hardship.
- Encourage them to contact their Local Court or Magistrates’ Court to obtain a Family Violence Protection Order.
- If they are concerned about their ability to work, encourage them to check their workplaces policies concerning Family Violence leave.
Family Violence Protection Orders
Family Violence Protection Orders are implemented by Local Courts of Magistrates’ Courts on a state level. A Family Violence Protection Order is designed to offer protection from a person who is committing Family Violence against another person. They can be applied for by Police on behalf of the victim, or can be applied for by the victim themselves. Once an Order is granted by a Magistrate or Judge, the Order will be served on the other person. This Order could result in the person being removed from the family home, or alternatively outline Orders that would prevent the person from committing Family Violence against the victim and potentially against the children of the couple or of the victim under 18 years of age.
In the event that a person breaches a Family Violence Protection Order, they can be charged by the Police and this could result in a criminal conviction and/or a range of penalties including jail time.
A Family Violence Protection Order will not outline arrangements for your children. You may be required to obtain assistance from the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia or alternatively through Family Dispute Resolution Services.
In the event that Court proceedings are filed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia to obtain arrangements for your children, you will be required to file a Notice of Risk that outlines whether you have experienced Family Violence or are at risk of Family Violence and whether the children have been exposed to Family Violence or Abuse, or are at risk of Family Violence or Abuse.
Who makes Orders about children?
Recently on 1 September 2021, the new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (“the Court”) came into effect. This merged the two family law Courts the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia. This Court makes Court Orders for Divorce; Spousal Maintenance; Property and Financial disputes; parenting; enforcement of Orders; location and recovery Orders; warrants for the apprehension or detention of a child and determination of parentage.
What does a Court consider in making Orders about children?
In order to make decisions regarding children such as where they live; who they spend time with; who should make decisions for a child, the paramount consideration is the ‘best interests of a child’ (section 60C of the Act). In order to determine what is in a child’s best interests the Court needs to balance the primary considerations of:
- The benefit of a child having a meaningful relationship with their parents;
- The need to protect the child for an exposure to physical or psychological harm from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse, neglect or Family Violence.
The act sets out a number of further considerations for determining a child best’s interests such as the children’s wishes; the nature of the relationship between the child’s parents and other persons (including grandparents), the communication between the parties and the capacity of the parents. It also takes into consideration any Family Violence involving the children or a member’s the children’s family and the whether any Family Violence order applies.
The new Court website provides useful information on how to deal with Family Violence in a separated context. www.fcfcoa.gov.au/fl/fv/help
Family Violence is never ok. If you think you are experiencing Family Violence, please ask someone for help. Do not suffer in silence.
Natalie Fielding is a Lawyer (Australian Legal Practitioner). She works predominately in the areas of Family Law and Family Violence and practices extensively through the Family Law system in various states in Australia. Natalie is an Accredited Specialist in Family Law through the Law Institute of Victoria. Natalie holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in Criminology and Sociology. Natalie is a Principal of Lewis Holdway Lawyers in Melbourne. Natalie sits on the board of a number of different charities in Australia including Focus on the Family. Natalie is a member of a working group at Hillsong Church concerning Hillsong Church’s response to domestic violence.
 Family Law Act 1975, section 60CC(2)
 Family Law Act 1975, section 60CC(3)