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Separating families punished.

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Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations

Robert McClelland MP

29 April 2003

Separating families punished

Today’s announcement by Attorney-General Daryl Williams and Parliamentary Secretary Ross Cameron can’t mask the punishing cuts made by the Howard Government to Family Court services for separating families.

Everyone agrees the government should provide alternatives to litigation, but the Howard Government seems to view this as an excuse to cut services to separating families who have eventually chosen to go to the Family Court to seek a resolution.

The Family Court’s regional circuit counselling programme has been decimated as the Howard Government pursues a policy of outsourcing services to private, fee-for-service operators.

Since 1 July 1999, the number of full-time equivalent counsellors employed by the Family Court has been slashed by 35%, and the number of days of Family Court circuit counselling in Australia’s regions has declined by 46%.

Family Court counsellors, who provided a free service, no longer visit the towns of Nowra, Orange, Griffith, Parkes, Bourke, Lightening Ridge, Muswellbrook, Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Inverell, Emerald, Mt Isa, Rockhampton, Port Pirie, or Port Augusta.

In addition, by the end of June this year, the number of Senior Registrars available in the Family Court to make interim parenting, residence and contact orders will have been slashed from 21 to just 3.

This will mean longer delays for separating families in the Family Court.

The Howard Government should recognise that many separating families find themselves in the Family Court despite their best efforts to resolve their differences without litigation.

They should not be punished with cutbacks to services.

For further information: Robert McClelland 0408 118 995 Jonathan Kirkwood 0425 231 690