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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 13934

Ms LANDRY (Capricornia) (16:45): Recently I addressed the House and stated that, when it comes to domestic violence and family custody issues, Central Queensland has some appalling statistics. In fact Rockhampton police report that the rate of domestic violence is 141 per cent higher than the state average. To compound issues associated with domestic violence, including custody disputes and family law cases, Rockhampton has very limited access to a Federal Court judge. That is why earlier this year, following a submission from the Central Queensland Law Association, I took up the fight to have a Federal Circuit Court judge permanently based in Rockhampton.

Tonight I can happily report to the House that, on behalf of the families of Capricornia, we have won that fight. On 13 November, the Attorney-General came to Rockhampton and announced that a Federal Circuit Court judge would be based permanently in the city, commencing early next year. The Attorney-General said that the Rockhampton judge will be a significant step forward in ensuring the provision of efficient and cost-effective family law services to Central Queensland. The new Federal Circuit Court judge will also undertake circuits to Emerald and Gladstone, improving accessibility in those centres as well.

Until now, people needing the services of the Federal Circuit Court, especially in family law matters, have had to wait years or incur the cost of travelling to Brisbane or Townsville. That will no longer be the case. This is a great outcome for Central Queensland. I thank the Attorney-General and the coalition government for listening to the concerns of people in Capricornia and acting upon them. This is an important outcome for the people of Central Queensland, which, as I said earlier, unfortunately has some of the highest rates of custody disputes and domestic violence in Queensland. A permanent judge will help to settle family law and custody disputes sooner—and help alleviate pressure on families in an area of escalating domestic violence.

Senior barristers tell me that the coalition government announcement is the most significant improvement to law services in Central Queensland in the nearly 42 years since a district court was established there. Those in the legal sector say it will take us from having one of the worst served areas to being one of the very best serviced areas from the perspective of local families being able to gain access to a Family Court judge. I would like to thank all of the local legal practitioners and the Central Queensland Law Association for bringing the issue to the attention of the federal government. I include in that Terry Tummon, Graeme Crowe, Paula Phelan, Joanne Madden and Lance Rundle. This will help families from Rockhampton, Gladstone and west of Emerald to have access to a permanent Federal Court judge.

For families facing custody, family law disputes and domestic violence, this announcement will help calm highly emotional and volatile situations—because it will reduce the frustration and financial costs associated with the long delays in getting matters settled in a Family Court, normally dispatched from Brisbane. Terry Tummon, the president of the Central Queensland Law Society, has welcomed the announcement. Mr Tummon said that previously families with urgent matters involving children had to wait lengthy periods for cases to be heard. He said a permanent Federal Court judge in Rockhampton would make a big difference to those families facing stressful Family Court issues.

The Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton's daily newspaper, has been a staunch advocate in the push to stamp out domestic violence and educate people about its impact in our community. In his editorial, the chief of staff of The Morning Bulletin, Adam Wratten, described the Attorney-General's announcement as a measure that would improve the lives of many people across Central Queensland. He said it is a positive step towards addressing one of the disappointing realities of life in Central Queensland—namely, chronic domestic violence. Once again I thank the Attorney-General and our federal coalition government for delivering this vital appointment to Rockhampton and Capricornia.