There are several ways for the federal government to support specialised family violence courts. The Australian Government could assist by facilitating the transfer of knowledge and expertise across state and territory jurisdictions. For example, training could be provided by existing specialised courts or judicial officers; and research and evaluations of existing specialised courts could be funded for the benefit of other jurisdictions. Appropriate funding could be provided to the National Judicial College of Australia for the purpose of providing ongoing judicial education in relation to family violence, including in relation to family violence courts.
The Australian Government could also coordinate state and territory government action in relation to specialised courts. For example, a working party could be set up by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General which could exchange information and collaborate on projects for such courts. Another way of fostering national cooperation and collaboration is by establishing a network of existing specialised family violence courts and judicial officers specialising in family violence or family law.
There is also a key role for the Australian Government in ensuring coordination between federal and state/territory courts. In New Zealand, as noted above, there is a position of Family Law Coordinator. These coordinators liaise with people external to the court, including specialist report writers and counsellors. Importantly, for the purposes of this Inquiry, the coordinator also liaises with child protection services, as well as family violence courts.
A similar liaison position could be created within the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court to facilitate communication between federal courts and state and territory courts. This liaison officer could act as a central point of contact for state and territory courts where there are concurrent family law proceedings, and thus facilitate information exchange between federal family law courts and state and territory courts. Further, a liaison officer could act also to develop and promote best practice in relation to greater coordination and integration between the federal, state and territory courts. For example, a liaison officer could be responsible for the negotiation of protocols between courts, and for addressing problems with interaction raised by the judicial officers and staff of the courts. The liaison officer could also represent the federal family law courts in relevant forums for collaboration with agencies, courts and non-government organisations.
Proposal 20–7 The Australian Government should assist state and territory governments in the establishment, development and maintenance of specialist family violence courts by, for example, facilitating the transfer of specialised knowledge and expertise in dealing with family violence and sexual assault across federal and state and territory jurisdictions; and establishing and maintaining national networks of judicial officers and staff specialising in family violence or family law.
Proposal 20–8 The Australian Government should create positions for Family Law Courts liaison officers. These officers should have the following functions:
- facilitating information sharing between federal family law courts and state and territory courts;
- developing and promoting best practice in relation to information sharing between the federal family law courts and state and territory courts; and
- representing the federal family law courts in relevant forums for collaboration with agencies, courts and non-government organisations.