Courts engage internationally recognised expert to undertake family violence focussed training

There has been considerable public focus on and discussion recently about the shameful prevalence of family violence in our community. It is an issue faced by many individuals and families who come to the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia (the Courts) to have their family law disputes resolved.

As the safety of children and families is the highest priority for the Courts, it is important that judges, registrars, family consultants and other staff of the Courts are provided with the opportunity for regular training on the issues of family violence and the impact on children.

The Courts have recently engaged the Safe & Together Institute from the United States of America to deliver court-wide training based on the Safe & Together Model™ developed by leading expert, Mr David Mandel.

The Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, the Hon Will Alstergren explained that this training is one of many initiatives of the Courts that are aimed at providing safer family law outcomes. These initiatives include; the new Notice of child abuse, family violence or risk, the Lighthouse Project, National Judicial College of Australia training, small claims property list (PPP500), co-location of police and departmental families and communities personnel in court registries, and the COVID-19 list. Underpinning all family violence related initiatives is the Courts’ Family Violence Best Practice Principles and the Family Violence Plan.

“How the Courts address issues of family violence is the most challenging, but most critical area of the Courts’ work. It is imperative that we continually review our training and knowledge in this area of work. With this in mind, the Courts are very pleased to have engaged the services of Mr Mandel to deliver training this year that will focus on issues such as the protection of children in the context of family violence, identification of protective parenting, coercive controlling behaviours and the impact of family violence on children,” Chief Justice Alstergren said.

The call for continued professional development and training has been addressed in a number of inquiries including in the 2017 Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into a better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence which specifically recommended that family law practitioners receive training in the Safe & Together Model.

The Safe & Together Model has been endorsed by many of Australia’s leading family and domestic violence experts and the approach underpins a suite of research projects funded by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS).

David Mandel, the executive director of the Safe & Together Institute and creator of the Safe & Together Model, said that the Model is a ground-breaking and globally recognized approach to improving outcomes for adult and child survivors of domestic violence and is used by most Australian state governments.

“The Safe & Together Model’s behavioural approach to mapping domestic violence perpetrators’ patterns onto child and family functioning will advance the ability of Australia’s family law courts to make the best decisions possible for children.

“The Model closes the gap between assessment of child abuse and domestic violence, helps reduce victim-blaming and increases accountability for parents who are using violence and coercive control.

“The holistic, whole family approach is ideally suited for the needs of Australian families including indigenous and, culturally and linguistically diverse families.

“With this training, Australia’s family law courts are well-placed as a global leaders in the reform of family court domestic violence practices. We’re proud to be part of this effort and are hopeful that families using the Courts will reap the benefits of them becoming more domestic violence-informed,” Mr Mandel added.

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