Friday, May 27, 2011

Protesters demand divorce/child custody changes (Canberra, Australia)

This is so long overdue....

Protesters demand divorce law changesBY MYLES PETERSON
26 May, 2011 08:59 AM

Hundreds of protesters rallied on the lawns of Parliament House yesterday, calling for changes to divorce laws.

The protesters travelled from across NSW and represented women's refuges, children's organisations and charities who deal with victims of domestic violence.

Calling themselves the Safety for Children Alliance, the group called for the proposed Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 to be passed.

The new legislation seeks to make it more difficult for violent partners to receive custody in a divorce settlement, according to a spokeswoman for the protesters.

''We're looking to undo some of the damage that was done in 2006 when the Howard government placed the rights of parents above the safety of children,'' the spokeswoman said.

Helen Cummings, mother of international actress Sarah Wynter, told the rally her own tale of domestic terror. Detailed in her new book Blood Vow, Ms Cummings spoke of how the difficult decision to leave her husband in 1976 probably saved her and her children's lives.

Stuart Wynter murdered his second wife and their child, then took his own life. ''The police phoned me to say my ex-husband was dead ... I asked [the police] how his wife and child were and they told me they were dead. I knew straight away they'd been killed by guns,'' she said.

The Safety for Children Alliance erected more than 30 tributes, in the form of children's clothes hanging from a line, to represent children who had been killed by a violent parent with court-ordered contact.

NSW Woman's Refuge Movement executive director Catherine Gander said current legislation placed too much emphasis on parental access over the rights of the child to be free from violence and abuse.

''Many of the parents and children we see who are engaged in Family Court processes are in danger of ongoing exposure to violence because the current Family Law Act's presumption of equal shared parental responsibility is putting the principle of shared parenting ahead of the safety of children,'' she said.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland issued yesterday a report from the Australian Institute of Family Studies which found violence, abuse and safety concerns were prevalent among large numbers of separated families.

''The Government has introduced the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill to create a safer and fairer family law system and prioritise the safety of children.''

The legislation is due for debate in Federal Parliament this week.