Domestic and family violence legal services urge Federal and State Governments to introduce suite of national reforms to stop crisis

3 July  2024

A coalition of legal assistance services are calling on the Federal and State/Territory Governments to introduce a series of reforms to address the domestic and family violence crisis, including a family violence risk information scheme, investment in and coordination of legal assistance services and reforms to visas for victim-survivors of domestic and family violence.

National Legal Aid and Women’s Legal Services Australia are proposing six key national law and policy reforms to address the domestic and family violence crisis.

Our services provide critical legal assistance to victim-survivors of domestic and family violence across a range of jurisdictions, including domestic and family violence orders, family law, child protection and child support. We see first-hand the impacts of the current gaps in national co-ordination and collaboration within the legal system.

The following recommendations are focused on a national approach to improving safety and access to justice for victim-survivors of domestic and family violence.

1. National family violence risk information sharing scheme and register

Governments across federal, state and territory jurisdictions must implement a national risk information sharing scheme and register to increase transparency, accountability and information sharing across the sector. This could include a register of family court orders, family violence orders, and other relevant information regarding risk factors including child protection issues.

This scheme could be modelled on the Victorian Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme. The Victorian scheme supports effective assessment and management of family violence risk, as Information Sharing Entities or ‘ISEs’ (key organisations and services) can share information related to assessing or managing family violence risk. The Scheme supports ISEs to keep perpetrators in view and accountable and promotes the safety of victim-survivors of family violence.

Funding for, and the development of, minimum standards domestic and family violence training for all legal professionals, court staff, police and the judiciary would assist in developing a legal system that is family violence informed, trauma-informed, culturally safe, and child rights focused. This requires regular access to meaningful training developed and delivered by subject matter and lived-experience experts that is regularly independently evaluated for its effectiveness, including evidence of improvements in the practice of professionals working in the legal system.

3. Closing the Gap

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, Family Violence Prevention Legal Services and Aboriginal Community Controlled Women’s Legal Services should receive additional legal assistance funding to provide appropriate and culturally safe service delivery to First Nations communities. This includes culturally appropriate services to women and children leaving domestic and family violence, and community informed early intervention programs.

Significant funding is required for meeting Closing the Gap Targets, such as Target 13 which states that the rate of all forms of family violence and abuse against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children is reduced by at least 50 per cent, as progress towards zero by 2031.

Law reform and services should be delivered in alignment with Closing the Gap principles of self-determination. Law reform, service design and investment in programs for First Nations communities should occur through principles of co-design and partnership, ensuring self-determination for First nations services and communities.

Our clients often face enduring poverty and an ongoing risk of or experience of homelessness as a consequence of escaping domestic and family violence which can often mean victim-survivors either remain in or return to unsafe situations.

Law and policy reform also works best when legal assistance is available to support victim-survivors to access justice. Investment in Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, Women’s Legal Services and Legal Aid family law and child support legal assistance is an essential part of ensuring that victim-survivors are able to access legal help to ensure their safety and ongoing financial independence.

We recommend that the National Legal Assistance Partnership 2025-30 prioritises investment in legal assistance to support efforts to end domestic and family violence.

5. Child support reforms

Law reform to address the gendered impacts of child support, particularly in instances of domestic and family violence, is long overdue.

We recommend the following reforms across Australia’s current child support scheme:

  • Accountability and enforcement measures to ensure payers are providing accurate information about their finances, including lodging annual tax returns by prescribed dates.
  • A trial of Government guaranteed child support, as recommended by the 2015 Parliamentary Inquiry into the Child Support Program.
  • Reforms to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) to recognise persistent underpayment or non-payment of child support as a relevant factor in determining the existence of family violence or abuse.
  • Removing the Maintenance Income Test from calculating Family Tax Benefit Part A for child support payees. 1
  • Increased resourcing for Services Australia to allow it to enhance its Child Support Scheme services, including debt enforcement.

6. Family violence visa reforms

Currently, victim-survivors on temporary visas have no access to income support, housing and social supports or Medicare and health services. Migration law reform is required to expand eligibility and access to family violence provisions, to allow women and children who are dependent on perpetrators to seek safety without fear of affecting their visa status.

We recommend:

  • Expanding eligibility and access to the family violence provisions to allow women and children who are dependent on perpetrators to seek safety without fear of affecting their visa status.
  • The creation of a new temporary visa subclass which gives access to social services, housing and essential healthcare services to all women and children seeking safety from violence. 2

As part of the National Ending Violence Against Women and Children Plan implementation and review, the outcomes measurement and national data collection focused on domestic and family violence should be established, including monitoring the outcome of family law courts’ decisions and orders, and where family law matters are resolved by consent out of court, to determine the impacts on victim-survivors of family violence. This should include monitoring the intersection between decisions in federal and state/territory jurisdictions, such as the impact of family violence orders, child protection and criminal law in family law courts’ decisions.

This information can then be used to inform law reform and systems change to help ensure the safety of victim-survivors.


1 This is a recommendation of the Treasury Interim Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee Report to Government 2023-24, Rec. 33.
2 These asks are supported by the Members of the National Advocacy Group on Women on Temporary Visas Experiencing Violence, which consists of more than 50 state and national peak bodies, service providers, individuals and other organisations working to address violence against women across Australia.

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