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Tuesday, 26 November 1974
Page: 2746

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) - As I indicated in the Senate on 1 7 September 1 974 I proposed to put before the Senate certain clauses for the setting up of the Family Court of Australia. Part IIIA, clauses 1 7a to 1 7t, contains these provisions.

I fully endorse paragraphs 33, 34 and 35 of the Standing Committee's report and, in particular, the concept of the Family Court as a 'helping court'. Paragraphs 38 to 46 of the report set out the type of Court which should be created. I have taken up with my colleague, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), the recommendation in paragraph 43 which has my full support.

In October 1973 the New Zealand Law Society's Committee on Divorce and Matrimonial Relief said:

A calculated attempt must be made to improve the image of our matrimonial courts. As an elementary matter of public relations, parties to a matrimonial dispute must carry away the best possible impression. To them their case is unique. They must be given the experience of feeling that their intimate personal affairs arc receiving the best possible attention by the best qualified people, by a court that will listen carefully and courteously but will where necessary exert its authority, and by a court which has the weight of public confidence behind it . . . We believe that the time has come for it to bc made absolutely plain that the law, the lawyers, and the courts, seriously acknowledge the outstanding social and public importance of this branch of the law.

I would think that the Australian public would endorse those remarks.

It is obvious that the quality of justice in family law matters should be even-handed across Australia. Litigants in the smaller States should not suffer because of non-specialised courts or lack of supportive services. Clearly this is one area where an Australian law should be administered by an Australian court. In development and expansion the Court should be enabled to look to the executive arm of one governmentnot seven- for the necessary finances, appointment of judges and other personnel, legislative changes and supportive services. I will not go further into the matter except to say that a separate Family Court away from the ordinary court buildings will provide a better atmosphere for the resolution of family problems. The judges of the Family Court will need to be men and women of compassion who have a deep understanding of the subtleties of human conduct and marital relationships. The Court will need to work closely with other social security agencies in the community. I believe, along with Senator Missen, that the concept of an Australian Family

Court already has been widely accepted in our community. I believe such a Court will provide justice, compassion and help and put Australia in the forefront of family law reform. Along with others in the community I have been observing what has been happening in the courts dealing with matrimonial causes, and have been observing a number of cases reported in the newspapers. One cannot help feeling that some of those cases have been dealt with in almost the worst possible way, and certainly not in the manner in which these family affairs ought to be handled. I hope the Committee will endorse the heading of this part and therefore the concept of the Family Court.

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