Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Fair Work, Employers Groups Fail Workers on Domestic Violence Leave

The Fair Work Commission is being urged to re-think its rejection of a union bid for 10 days of paid domestic violence leave for all employees.

Fair Work, Employers Groups Fail Workers on Domestic Violence Leave

The Fair Work Commission is being urged to re-think its rejection of a union bid for 10 days of paid domestic violence leave for all employees.

Cassandra Pullos says the full bench of the Fair Work Commission should review its "preliminary view" that while it is necessary to make provisions for family and domestic violence leave, it rejected an application for 10 days of leave to be covered under all modern awards for all employees.
 
Cassandra says it is extremely disappointing that the commission has said it did not approve the Australian Council of Trade Unions application because it was not satisfied "at this time, that it is necessary to provide 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave to all employees covered by modern awards.
 
She is especially critical of remarks from employer groups, welcoming Fair Work’s stance and saying paid leave, unpaid leave and flexible working arrangements are already available options where employees experience domestic violence.
 
“Comments by the employer groups that carers leave and annual leave suffice might work for those workers who have leave entitlements owing – but what about those who don’t?
 
“Domestic violence isn’t usually a one off event. It often causes incremental and increasing absences from work and is in addition to the burden of days lost by illness of both the parent and their children, and on occasion parents that the domestic violence victim might also be caring for,” Cassandra says.
 
She has acknowledged Fair Work’s preliminary view that all employees should have access to unpaid family and domestic violence leave and in addition its preliminary view that employees should be able to access personal/carer's leave for the purpose of taking family and domestic violence leave.
 
However she feels much more could be done and reiterates her view that domestic violence leave should be a compulsory element in every workplace in 2017, the same way personal and holiday leave is provided for by law.
 
“We as a community are starting to take big steps in recognising the widespread prevalence of domestic violence, across all socio economic groups as a whole of community issue. As a whole of community issue it needs a workplace response as one, essential, part of a whole of community response to domestic violence.
 
“Enabling victims to access personal and carers leave for the purposes of family and domestic violence leave is one step – but it’s not enough. Specific Family and domestic violence leave is also needed,” she says.
 
“Not only does it provide victims with the workplace support they need in a more meaningful way than being restricted to whatever personal and annual leave they have available to them, if any, it also send a very strong and powerful message about the communities response to domestic violence and a recognition that this is a whole of community responsibility” .
 
Cassandra says Queensland public sector workers are entitled to paid domestic violence leave and it should become a standard provision in all workplaces.
 
“Domestic violence is a growing national crisis and paid leave for those affected by it should be seen as necessary and not confined to just public sector employees,” she says.
 
Late last year Queensland became the first jurisdiction to legislate paid domestic and family violence for public sector workers. Several Australian law firms are now offering domestic violence leave to staff but it was on an ad hoc basis with no formal, profession-wide policy.
 
“We support this call for domestic violence leave to be available across the board to everyone affected by it as one of the ways in which the business community can recognise the toll domestic and family violence can take on employees,” Cassandra says.
 
The State’s provisions for its employees entitles them to up 10 days of paid leave to attend medical, legal and counselling appointments and arrange alternative accommodation and child care assistance.
 
Cassandra says the legal profession should take a prominent role in advocating change to protect DV victims and advocate tougher penalties for those who commit domestic violence.
 
She believes the business community could play a crucial and influential role for change especially in opening the closed doors of a behaviour that still carries a worrying stigma for many victims, and which perpetrators of domestic and family violence exploit to their own benefit.
 
“One of the key messages we need to convey in 2017 is to push for change on the understanding that domestic violence leave is not and should not be just seen as a holiday.
 
“Domestic violence is so widespread and ingrained, it needs a whole of Government and Community approach to eradicate it. Up until now various groups and agencies have been working almost independently and in isolation on DV solutions.
 
“The current splintered approach needs to refocus around a robust policy to protect and help victims and deter and appropriately punish domestic violence offenders,” she says.
 
Legislating domestic violence leave as an entitlement for all workers, irrespective of their profession or industry, is a worthy target for addressing DV in 2017, Cassandra says.
 
If you need advice or assistance, call us on 07 5526 3646 or contact us and one of our expert family lawyers will be able to assist you.


 

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Monday, May 15, 2017
Federal Budget - Implications for Family Law

The 2017-18 Federal Budget, released Monday 9th May, has been received with mixed feelings by the Family Law Section.

Federal Budget - Implications for Family Law  

The 2017-18 Federal Budget, released Monday 9 May, has been received with mixed feelings by the Family Law Section.

Disappointingly, the budget did not include the significant funding increase required to solve some of the current challenges faced by the existing Family Court framework. Extended delays within the court system are set to continue without the economic attention necessary to address them. Legal Aid funding also failed to receive the budget consideration it requires.
 
A welcome injection of $10.7 million to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, the Family Court of Australia and the Family Court of Western Australia will help to support vulnerable families by engaging more family consultants.
 
The establishment of ‘Parenting Management Hearings’ has been afforded $12.7 million. Attorney-General, Hon George Brandis QC, outlined these hearings as an innovative solution to resolving “more straight-forward family law disputes between self-represented litigants”.
 
These hearings will be introduced with the aim to lessen the stress placed on the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. Diversified resolution options should help streamline the litigation process and help to unclog the court system, encouraging a more timely litigation process. It appears that hearings will be trialled in Parramatta, with a second site yet to be identified. The Federal Court of Australia will have administrative responsibility.
 
Particularly important was the announcement that Australian family law will undergo a comprehensive review by the Australian Law Reform Commission. This review will be focused on ensuring that the contemporary needs of modern Australian families are being met by Australian family law. Of particular interest will be frameworks for addressing family violence and child abuse. The Commission will present its report by the end of 2018.
 
Accompanying the Budget was the Attorney-General’s assurance that public consultation regarding proposed changes to the Family Law Act would commence shorty. The proposed changes detail measures to ensure that victims of family violence are not put in the position of being personally cross-examined, or having to cross-examining their alleged perpetrator/s of violence.
 
If you need advice or assistance with any family law issue, call us on 07 5526 3646 or contact us.

 

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Friday, May 05, 2017
Federal Government Makes Major Changes to 457 Visa

The Federal Government has made substantial changes to the 457 visa programme for migrants wishing to work and settle in Australia.

Federal Government Makes Major Changes to 457 Visa

The Federal Government has made substantial changes to the 457 visa programme for migrants wishing to work and settle in Australia.    
 
Damira Hidic our migration law expert says those who may be affected by the changes should see a migration lawyer to clarify their visa status and be made aware of the transition now to a new visa programme.
 
The four-year visa system, which permits highly skilled migrants to apply for permanent residency on its completion, is to be replaced in a policy move to protect Australian jobs.
 
Damira says the Government is saying the 95,000 skilled migrants currently in Australia on 457 visas will not be affected and may still have a pathway for permanent residency at the end of the four years.
 
“But the Government has removed more than 200 qualifying occupations from the visa list, so if people in those categories who have applied but not yet been approved, their applications will be rejected. I understand refunds of visa application fees will be made if the application is withdrawn before it is decided,”
 
Damira says people who have lodged a visa application which may now not qualify should see a migration lawyer to see what they may need to do to satisfy new Australian visa rules.
 
Damira, who is a registered Migration Lawyer with over 10 years of experience helping people who want to make Australia their home, says the changes will completely redefine the pathway to permanent residency status.
 
Applicants or an employer wanting to sponsor employees to work in Australia, don’t need to physically be in Australia for us to be able to act as your migration agent. In fact a large majority of our clients are still residing overseas while we are doing the work required to secure their visa for them.
 
If you need advice or assistance, call us on 07 5526 3646 or contact us and our expert Migration lawyer will be able to assist you.
 

 

 

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Tuesday, May 02, 2017
Increasing Pressure for Family Court on GC

Pullos Lawyers is strongly endorsing a renewed campaign to bring the Family and Federal courts to the Gold Coast.

Increasing Pressure for Family Court on GC

Pullos Lawyers is strongly endorsing a renewed campaign to bring the Family and Federal courts to the Gold Coast.

Cassandra Pullos says it’s ridiculous that the Gold Coast, the sixth largest city Australia, can host and contribute to the funding of the Commonwealth Games next year, but residents are not given the badly needed service of a resident Family Court registry.
She says the current arrangement whereby the Federal Circuit Court holds five two-day sessions a year on the Gold Coast do not even scratch the surface of the need here. Cassandra regards the current arrangement of providing a circuit court sitting only on the Gold Coast as “Pathetic and getting worse”.
 
“The Circuit judges do their very best, in fact they are amazing under very, very difficult circumstances. The need so far outstrips the capacity of one judge, 2 days per month for a total of 5 months a year that the situation for both the Court staff and the clients is now impossible,” she says.
 
Cassandra says the Gold Coast situation looks all the more ridiculous when compared with the Victorian suburb of Dandenong, near Melbourne which has been serviced by its own Family Court registry for many years.
 
Central Dandenong has a population of around 29,500, and the Greater Dandenong population is 157,000 compared to the Gold Coast’s 570,000. Dandenong is 34 kms and 37 mins drive from Melbourne and its main Family Court registry. The Gold Coast is 82 kms and 57 mins drive from the main Family Court Registry in Brisbane.
 
“How can it be justifiable to have full Family Court services in Dandenong and not on the Gold Coast?” Cassandra says.
 
“As Cr Dawn Crichlow has pointed out, the federal government has stripped several government services from the Gold Coast and given nothing in return.
 
“What pains us even more is the fact that there was a Family Court registry on the Gold Coast about 25 years ago – even though it was limited to filing and conferences services only. We were campaigning at the time for full Court services but never got them and eventually the limited services that were there shut down.
 
“So now people have to go to Brisbane and experience the logjam of matters in the courts there on top of the pressures of an often clogged M1 motorway. Gold Coast people deserve better than this,” Cassandra says.
 
She has dismissed comments from Federal MP for Moncrieff, Stephen Ciobo, who has defended the government, saying the five two-day Federal Circuit Court hearings allocated to the Gold Coast are woefully inadequate.
 
“They don’t even scratch the surface of the need here. On those two days the Judge has at least 30 matters to deal with each day, and can really only deal with directions and consents and make the most urgent of interim orders. Anything else is then transferred up to Brisbane.
 
“At all other times parties, and their lawyers, have to travel to Brisbane. I believe the Gold Coast is the largest population centre in Australia by far without a Family Law registry of its own,” Cassandra says.
 
With the Gold Coast’s growing population, heading toward 570,000 now, the city can no longer be treated like a satellite suburb of Brisbane.
 
“Officially we are the sixth largest city in Australia and the largest non-capital city in the country but for key government services we are regarded as a rural backwater”.
 
Family lawyers would strongly endorse business and legal group lobbying to establish a full time Family Court here. The Gold Coast City
Council tried 20 years ago to bring the Family and Federal Courts to the Gold Coast, with the Mal Burke carpark tagged as a development site for the courts complex. But the venture fizzled out.
 
“The Federal Government talks up the importance of its services to the public but in the area of the Family Court, Gold Coasters are poorly treated by our government. It’s long past the time for change,” Cassandra says.
 
If you need advice or assistance, call us on 07 5526 3646 or contact us and one of our expert family lawyers will be able to assist you.

 

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Divorce in a Day Gimmick Distorts Complex Reality of Relationship Breakdown

Family lawyers offering catchy gimmicks such as ‘divorce in a day’ or ‘divorce hotels’ may be creating unrealistic expectations and long term problems among separating couples.

 


Divorce in a Day Gimmick Distorts Complex Reality of Relationship Breakdown

 

Family lawyers offering catchy gimmicks such as 'divorce in a day' or 'divorce hotels' may be creating unrealistic expectations and long term problems among separating couples. 

That's Cassandra Pullos' view and she says the 'divorce in a day' concept, which has drawn recent media focus, sends the wrong message to separating couples.

“It suggests a quick fix remedy. Divorce your partner and move on, all in a day. Out with the old and in with the new- simple consumerist rhetoric that pays no regard or respect for the complexity of human relationships. The reality is a lot more complex than that and to suggest otherwise is not only a gimmick but dangerously misleading,” she says.
Cassandra is concerned that various family lawyers here and interstate are promoting ‘quick fix’, cheaper divorce processes which generally focus only on “getting a divorce” as if it were the same thing as “getting a burger”.
 
“You can’t get “divorced in a day” in this country. To suggest otherwise to people unfamiliar with the law is misleading. You have to be separated for a minimum of 12 months to “get a divorce” (the Order that ends your legal relationship of marriage).You can certainly sign the necessary paperwork the day after the 12 months expires – you will then be divorced on a final basis about four months later, after the Court has reviewed your application and satisfied itself of the factors required in the Family Law Act and after a final “cooling off” period of one month.
 
“That has been the law in Australia since 1975 – and it hasn’t changed.
 
“As for the untangling of a relationship, such as the dividing up of property, superannuation and financial investments, arrangements for any children and so on- these are life decisions that are never made in a day, at least not without the risk of later regret for hasty decisions made for emotional reasons and without proper advice,” Cassandra says.
 
“Similarly the idea of a ‘divorce hotel’ where a couple check in for a weekend and thrash out an agreement and “divorce”, all pre supposes the two people are already in agreement on all matters. This marketing concept has been around for some years and used in other countries,” she says.
 
Cassandra feels the allure of a fast decision and settlement within a day may appeal to those seeking the quick fix solution but the process of separation and divorce is far more complex and needs to be thought through to prevent complications later on.
 
“A divorce involves a process of grief and loss. The key throughout is to make informed decisions. You can’t rush to a decision then have second thoughts six months after the documents are signed.
 
“A divorce means you are making decisions that could be irreversible and certainly will have lifelong consequences for you, your ex-partner and your children,” she adds.
 
“You don’t generally make a decision in a single day to get married or commit to a life together. It takes time to develop a relationship with your partner leading to that commitment. If the relationship breaks down it also takes time to process the emotion on a personal level so that you can make wise and informed decisions on a legal level about your children and your finances into the future.
 
Those decisions have to last a lifetime. When do you ever make lifetime decisions in a day?” she says.
 
“My 32 years of experience in working with couples going through the life transition of relationship breakdown tells me loudly and clearly that couples want, generally, to be able to separate in a way that is future and child focused with appropriately qualified and experienced professionals to help them make wise decisions that will support their new life as a separated family.”
 
“That takes time, and the seeking of wise counsel from trusted advisors in law, finance, children’s needs, communication and emotional and psychological health.
 
“Much as we would all like to take a magical pill to make us happier, thinner, wealthier, sexier or separated – the quick fix simply does not exist.
 
“Separating couples do want alternatives to a big, long, expensive, nasty Court battle in which, usually, neither side “wins”. Those alternatives are available, mediation and Collaborative practice are two of them. “Divorce in a day” is not one, or at least not a safe one,” Cassandra says.
 
“Those genuine alternatives are respectful, future and child focused, problem solving approaches that also take commitment, patience and maturity from both the clients and their lawyers and other advisors. They also deliver better, positive, outcomes”.
 
Cassandra, who is a mediator and collaborative professional as well as a trainer in Collaborative Practice for family lawyers and allied professionals who work with separating couples, says the benefits of couples controlling the divorce process in a respectful and co-operative manner are widely known now and practised internationally.
 
“All of these processes take time. Sometimes a short time, others longer, but almost never in just one day. There’s a reason for that, to ensure people make informed decisions for their future.
 
“Just like life, relationships and their endings are a journey, not a destination to be reached in a day”, Cassandra says.
 
If you need advice or assistance, call us on 07 5526 3646 or email us at cjp@pulloslawyers.com.au and one of our expert family lawyers will be able to assist you.


 

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017
Six Years of Casual Sex Does Not Prove a De Facto Relationship

It’s the question family lawyers get asked perhaps more than any other- how do I prove if I’m in a de facto relationship?

Six Years of Casual Sex Does Not Prove a De Facto Relationship

It's the question family lawyers get asked perhaps more than any other - how do I prove if I'm in a de facto relationship?

There are many cases that address this issue and the Federal Circuit Court has recently addressed this question head on again with a decision that may surprise many. Basically, casual sex across any number of years does not in itself automatically legally define a de facto relationship.
 
No surprise to the lawyers who work in this area, but it may be to the many couples trying to navigate the complex system.
 
Cassandra Pullos says the subject often arises with people who may have been in a relationship for years, but don’t necessarily live together in the same house.
 
While many aspects of family law are clearly defined, the definition of a de facto relationship can be confusing to some, which is why so many people seek legal advice on it. Sometimes the answer’s just not as clear cut as they might hope.
 
So is a six year sexual relationship, not in the same house, a de facto relationship? If it is, then for what period- eight years or only two?
 
That’s the background to the matter that recently came before the Court. The man who brought the case believed there was a strong case because he and his former partner had been together for a total of eight years, the last two living in the same house. So they were a de facto couple, right? And now they’ve split up, he’s entitled to a share of the assets, yes?
 
But as the Federal Circuit Court found, it’s not as straightforward as this.
 
The case before the Court involved a man and woman who had six years of a casual relationship, then moved in together for two years before they broke up.
 
She held the major value of assets in her name-$2.7m worth-and he made a claim for a slice of the cake- claiming they’d been in a de facto relationship for eight years and he had contributed to the value held by each of them at the end of their relationship. The jointly held property had only a very small value- about $9000 net after taking into account the liabilities attached to those jointly held assets.
 
The judge shot his case down. Forget the first six years – that was not a de facto relationship. It came down to the two years the couple did spend under the same roof.
 
The Court found that, yes, the pair inter-mingled their financial affairs, but only to the extent that they entered into joint loans to purchase some property. Otherwise they kept their finances entirely separate.
 
Cassandra says the court found that there was no basis to adjust the property rights the woman had in the $2.7m worth of property she had in her own name- she kept all of it.
 
But, the de facto husband argued, his contributions to the joint property - paving and installation of new turf- should count. Not so said the Judge, calling it “a de minimis argument”- (de minimis non curat lex i.e. the law does not concern itself with trifles). Ouch.
 
The judge went on to find that, but for the contributions of the de facto wife, the asset wouldn’t have existed so the de facto husband didn’t get a share of that either.
 
So, in summary, he could reflect on the benefit he had in living rent-free in the property owned by his former partner during the relationship.
 
Cassandra says situations like this happen more often than people may think. Sometimes people may have multiple partners spread around different places and each may think they are in a de facto relationship, when the reality is that casual sex does not legally prove a de facto relationship exists.
 
Conversely, there are many cases where a de facto relationship has been found to exist where the couple have never lived together, or have spent some time in each other’s homes. It all depends on the entire set of circumstances of each individual couple- and how those circumstances are presented by your lawyers to the Judge. Knowing where to place the focus in your particular circumstances is crucially important.
 
If you need advice or assistance about your particular circumstances, call us on 07 5526 3646 or contact us here and one of our expert family lawyers will be able to assist you.

 

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Thursday, March 23, 2017
Major Step Forward in DV Protection Laws

Cassandras Pullos has applauded the passing of new legislation by State Parliament to protect domestic violence victims and make life tougher for DV offenders.


Major Step Forward in DV Protection Laws

 
Cassandras Pullos has applauded the passing of new legislation by State Parliament to protect domestic violence victims and make life tougher for DV offenders.

A tough LNP Private Member’s Bill which drew Labor support was passed late on Wednesday night. It allows for GPS trackers to be fitted to DV offenders and radically reverses the presumption of bail for violence-related DV offences.

Cassandra says family lawyers have been strongly advocating tougher safety measures for domestic violence victims and a more hardline stance against offenders for some time.

Key points of the DV reforms are:


  • Reverses the presumption for bail for persons charged with domestic violence-related crimes such as assault, grievous bodily harm, deprivation of liberty, strangulation and kidnapping.

  • A DV Alert system will advise victims and families when someone with a DVO against them is being considered for parole, even if the reason they are in prison is not related to domestic violence.

  • Introduces urgent appeal rights to the bail application process, which means bail decisions can be stayed for up to three business days and referred to a higher court for urgent review.\

Allows Courts to require GPS trackers be fitted to an alleged offender as a bail condition to ensure that victims of crime are better protected throughout the full trial process.

Cassandra says the new legislation has been needed for some time and stakeholders in the ongoing Domestic Violence crisis will be closely examining the new laws to see where further strengthening is needed.
One immediate area of concern is a key provision in the Bill which did not get Labor support. This involved a DV bail alert system which would have seen victims alerted when a previous offender applies for or has been granted bail.

Cassandra expects there will be pressure for this commonsense measure to ensure DV victims have an early alert when an offender is released to be put before Parliament again.

Just this week, State Coroner Terry Ryan recommended the Government toughen bail conditions ensuring the most violent domestic violence perpetrators remain in jail.

Cassandra says the legislative changes are a significant victory for DV victims and those pushing for change.

“Finally the rights of the victims are being upheld. This is a great step forward in a crisis that has been too often studded with heartbreaks,” she says.



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Friday, March 17, 2017
High Court Rules Even a 17 Year Old Can't Choose Between His Divorced Parents

It’s a situation the children of divorced parents fear. Do the kids have a say in who they live with, and at what age can they make their own decision? Cassandra Pullos says a recent case in New South Wales has highlighted this vexed issue and it’s put renewed focus on the Family Court and the role of the Independent Children's Lawyer (ICL).

High Court Rules Even a 17 Year Old Can't Choose Between His Divorced Parents 


It’s a situation the children of divorced parents fear. Do the kids have a say in who they live with, and at what age can they make their own decision?

Cassandra Pullos says a recent case in New South Wales has highlighted this vexed issue and it’s put renewed focus on the Family Court and the role of the Independent Childrens’ Lawyer (ICL).

The two sons of wealthy parents found themselves at the sharp end of a parental tug of war after their dad was allowed to take them on holiday  to New York in January 2016. A few days later dad decided he wasn’t returning to Australia and advised his ex-wife that the boys wanted to stay in New York too.

This is where it gets complicated. 
      
The parents had three children while married, two boys aged 17 and 15, and a girl aged 12. The parties separated in 2010 and after this, the boys lived with the father and the girl lived with her mother. 

Parenting orders provided that the parties had equal shared parental responsibility. The children were to live with each parent as determined between the parties or at the children's election. The parents were also permitted to take the children out of Australia on holidays.

So dad gets permission to take the boys to New York in January 2016 for a holiday but a few days after arrival there advises his former wife he has decided to stay in New York and the boys want to stay there too.

The mother filed an application under the Hague Convention to have the children returned to Australia. The Hague Convention is an international agreement whereby more than 90 signatory countries agree to uphold child custody orders from other signatory countries.

Orders for the boys to return were made but the father appealed. The full bench of the Family Court dismissed his appeal, upholding the primary judges' judgment. So the father took an appeal to the High Court, and lost again. 

The question of where the boys would live back in Australia further complicated the issue. If the father did not return to Australia the boys would be expected to live with their mother, but if they did not want to do that, the father would pay for their accommodation elsewhere. Another option was for them to live with friends.

The mother decided not to take part in the High Court process so the Independent Childrens’ lawyer ( ICL) opposed the father’s case. The ICL seeks an outcome in the best interests of the children and it may not be what the children want.

Cassandra Pullos says this puts a focus on the children’s wishes in that “children” (anyone under the age of 18) never get to choose absolutely.

“Their wishes can be taken into account, depending on the maturity with which they are expressed (and a 13 year old may be more mature in their consideration and expression of their wishes than a 16 year old – or an 8 year old more mature than a 13 year old.

“Ultimately, the wishes of anyone under 18 is only one factor for the judge to take into account when deciding what is in a child’s best interests. They have to look at ALL the factors set out in S60CC of the Family Law Act – not just the child’s wishes”, she says.

This particular NSW case, which made media headlines, also dispels the long held “urban myth” that, in reality, once children get to about 15 or 16, you can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do and so, in a de facto way, their wishes become the only important thing and they get to do whatever they want to do.

“This case gives the lie to that urban myth. These children – 15 and 17 – were clearly saying they wanted to stay in New York with their father. But the High Court looked at what was in their overall best interests, including the disruption to their relationship with their mother and their sister such a choice would necessarily result in, something apparently the boys hadn’t really considered when expressing their wishes,”.

The High Court also looked at the level of influence their father had over the sons’ decision making. 

The High Court made it clear that just because these boys were older teenagers, their wishes still weren’t paramount – the Court still has the duty, and the power, to make a decision different to those wishes if, in all the circumstances, the Court believes the children’s best interests are served by another outcome different to their wishes.

As Cassandra puts it – “Kids don’t get what they want just because they want it – the central tenet of good parenting! The adult in the room (in this case the Judge) has a duty to look at the bigger picture and make a decision based on all the ramifications for the child, as to what is best for him or her.”

If you have a family law issue and need advice or assistance, contact us on 07 5526 3646 and one of our specialist Family lawyers will be able to assist you.


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Thursday, February 16, 2017
Why Has State Government Ignored Key Recommendation Of Its Domestic Violence Taskforce?

The Queensland State Government is being challenged on why a key recommendation of a landmark study into domestic violence two years ago has not been acted upon.


Why Has State Government Ignored Key Recommendation of its Domestic Violence Taskforce? 


The Queensland State Government is being challenged on why a key recommendation of a landmark study into domestic violence two years ago has not been acted upon. 

Cassandra Pullos says she was shocked that current calls for GPS tracking bracelets for DV offenders haven't been actioned immediately when that action was actually included in the key recommendations of the State’s own special taskforce into DV, which presented its findings to the State Government two years ago.

She says Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s reported remarks urging parties demanding new measures for DV offenders to first discuss the issue, seems to ignore her Government’s own DV taskforce recommendations of 2015. 

The Opposition is promoting a Bill which would ensure violent domestic violence offenders are fitted with GPS tracking devices. But Ms Palaszczuk has urged caution on fast tracking tough new DV laws in the wake of the murder of Gold Coast mother Teresa Bradford.

Cassandra says she is astonished the Premier is telling the Opposition to “sit down together” and discuss with police and welfare agencies how best to introduce practical aspects of the new law.

“The Premier is saying the state has allocated $200,000 to GPS tracking technology for DV offenders but the Government had to ensure the devices would work.

“Why is the Premier stalling on these measures? GPS tracking was recommended two years ago among the 140 recommendations of the State’s “Not Now, Not Ever” task force on domestic violence.

“Recommendation number 123 : The Queensland Government trials the use of GPS monitoring for high risk perpetrators of domestic and family violence.”

“This was in a report featured on the Queensland Government’s own website which features the 2015 report of the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an end to domestic and family violence in Queensland.

“In the two years since then it seems the recommendation for tracking bracelets for DV offenders has been ignored. Why?” Cassandra asks.

The New South Wales Government last year included $2.9 million in its Budget for high-risk domestic violence offenders to be fitted with GPS tracking devices to restrict their movements and ensure they do not come within designated exclusion zones.

“New South Wales actioned this a year ago and Queensland has done nothing. Why not? Has our State Government consulted other states? If not, why not?”

Cassandra says Premier Palaszczuk’s attitude to calls for some of the immediate measures to monitor DV offenders defies belief.

“She says “We have to make sure these things work. These things just don’t happen overnight”. Well she’s had two years to get it sorted since her own taskforce reported, so why has nothing been done?”

Cassandra believes domestic violence has become so widespread and ingrained in the community, it needs a co-ordinated Government and Community approach to defeat it.

The recent murder of Gold Coast mother Teresa Bradford by her estranged husband has thrown a renewed focus on domestic violence, and renewed interest in a study of the “Not Now, Not Ever” report, which highlights a wide range of key actions being recommended by the taskforce in 2015.

While many of the report’s recommendations have been implemented, some, such as GPS tracking bracelets for offenders, are still in limbo.
 
The Gold Coast specialist domestic violence court has been trialled as a result of the taskforce findings, but it seems some other recommendations had been shelved or ignored, Cassandra says.

The taskforce’s DV report made 140 recommendations based on the insights gathered from five months of consultation with communities and individuals.

“The premier is saying she won’t consider any changes to things like bail laws until the Police investigation into Teresa Bradford’s murder is completed. That just seems to me to be an unnecessary delay.

“While the results of that investigation may well be informative about what might have been differently in that particular case – there is, unfortunately, no shortage of previous cases in recent times we can also learn from,” she said.

“We need to identify the triggers and how to stop acts of violence before they occur.

“It would be great if we could educate children in school so we have generations of children for whom violence is not a solution to conflict. 

Until we have a society in which all members are educated to that degree of emotional intelligence, and address the mental health issue such as with Teresa Bradford’s estranged husband, then we do have to find ways to better recognise risk factors and act to properly protect those at risk,” she says.

“Domestic violence has become a global epidemic. Individual groups and government departments alone cannot stop it. It’s time the whole community worked together for a co-ordinated action plan to stop this scourge right now,” Cassandra says.

Link to Taskforce report: https://www.communities.qld.gov.au/gateway/end-domestic-family-violence/about/not-now-not-ever-report

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Wednesday, February 01, 2017
Southport Domestic Violence Court Desperately Needs Third Magistrate, More Resources

The Gold Coast's specialist domestic violence court is buried under a staggering workload and unless it gets a third Magistrate and more resources, the Gold Coast community risks an escalating number of tragedies.



Southport Domestic Violence Court desperately needs third Magistrate, more resources 


The Gold Coast's specialist domestic violence court is buried under a staggering workload and unless it gets a third Magistrate and more resources, the Gold Coast community risks an escalating number of tragedies.

That’s the view of Rebecca Barron who says family lawyers are adding their voice to calls for a better resourced specialist domestic violence court.

She has endorsed calls by others in the legal profession who say many DV victims are waiting on average seven and a half months for a hearing and the two DV Magistrates and court staff are working under a brutal workload to cope with demand.

Rebecca says Magistrates Strofield and Tynan are highly regarded for their commitment to the state’s first specialist Domestic Violence court, but the volume of matters before the court is accelerating and more resources are crucially needed.


Other lawyers have recently highlighted the lengthy delays people are enduring to have a matter heard, saying the DV Court logjam is a consequence of the increase in awareness of domestic violence leading to an increase in the number of applications for protection orders.


Rebecca says lengthy delays for a hearing are financially impacting on parties in DV matters and while a temporary Protection Order could be ordered immediately to protect the aggrieved, a formal hearing on a matter could take months and exert an enormous emotional toll on participants.

“I’m a huge supporter of the specialist Domestic Violence court and in our profession we all acknowledge the dedication of the Magistrates and the court staff.

“However, the number of applications continue to rise, and as a society we are faced almost daily with serious and tragic events of domestic violence – including events leading to the death of innocent people.” 

Statistics tell us that for female homicide victims nationally, 23 per cent die as a result of domestic violence. In Queensland’s it’s worse at 44 per cent. In the 10 year period of 2002- 2012 there were 654 women victims of intimate partner homicide in Australia. Those statistics are higher when they incorporate children, male victims and extended family victims.

“The emotional toll of delays in the DV court’s work cannot be emphasised enough. My greatest fear is that if the process is delayed too long, people will lose heart and stop going to the courts for protection.

“Leaders in our society have been working so hard to shine a light on domestic violence and make the community aware of it, but if people lose confidence in the system then there’s a real fear they will just give up and do nothing,” Rebecca says.

Better resources for the Southport Domestic Violence Court could include another Magistrate, or at least a judicial registrar to deal with procedural issues and thus free up the Magistrates to handle more pressing matters.

A bigger budget would enable more court staff for administration tasks too, and better funding for Legal Aid was another priority to fund more duty lawyers.

“Our DV court is a crucially needed, invaluable resource for the Gold Coast and the Magistrates, court staff and police prosecutions put themselves out constantly to achieve the best possible results for DV victims.

“But the sheer volume of matters means parties are waiting for several months for their trial and during that time they suffer a huge emotional toll.  If we want our specialist DV court to be as effective as possible and provide protection to those in need, the Court must be better resourced, and urgently,” Rebecca says.      

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