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Parliamentary inquiry hearing evidence into child custody cases may recommend a counsellor be engaged to represent the rights of children.

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Monday 1 September 2003

Parliamentary inquiry hearing evidence into child custody cases may recommend a counsellor be engaged to represent the rights of children


LINDA MOT TRAM: The Federal Parliamentary inquiry into the emotionally-charged issue of child custody may recommend that children caught up in divorce cases should get a representative to hear their concerns and, if necessary, to put their case. 


After its first week of hearings, the committee continues today with sessions in Sydney and Wollongong. 


Committee Chair, Kay Hull, says that in divorce cases where the mother and the father each have lawyers, the needs of the children can be sidelined. 


Mrs Hull says she is not suggesting that children engage their own lawyer. 


But she says a counsellor or adviser could be engaged to represent childrens' rights. 


Our Chief Political Correspondent, Catherine McGrath, asked Kay Hull what issues are emerging from the committee's hearings so far. 


KAY HULL: Some of the things are emerging that the childrens' interests are not taken into consideration and that it would be beneficial if individual representation could be established for the child aside of that of the parent, of the mother and the father. So, individually each child would have their own representation to ensure that their needs and their desires were being met.  


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And so the committee is taking this idea seriously?  


KAY HULL: I think so. I think at this point in time, everything that comes across the table at the hearings is taken very seriously.  


But this is one of those areas that I think deserves to be explored further, because we are interested in the interests of the children and yet we seem to only hear the parental side of the debate. So I think it's one of those very good considerations that the committee should seriously look at within their recommendations from this report.  


CATHERINE McGRATH: The idea though of a child as young as six months, or five, or ten having their own lawyer is a very serious step. 


KAY HULL: Look, we're not talking about lawyers, we're talking about representations. We'd like to try and remove that law focus and that adversarial focus as much as possible. This might be very clearly, you know, an independent mediator, facilitator person who is, they simply have an enormous amount to do with relationship building.  


So we're not advocating, and I don’t believe that anyone is advocating a lawyer individually for these people, it's just that a child has its own representation, and in preferably a non-adversarial approach.  


LINDA MOTTRAM: Kay Hull chairs the Parliamentary inquiry that's looking at child custody issues. She was speaking there to Catherine McGrath, our Chief Political Correspondent.