Thousands Back Rosie Batty’s Call for Justice on Luke’s 14th Birthday
21 June 2016 at 11:55 am
Domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty has handed a petition to senators on what would have been her son Luke Batty’s 14th birthday, in a bid to address the family law crisis.
The Justice for Kids petition, which has more than 21,000 signatures, is calling on the leaders of the three main political parties to commit to a family law system that puts safety first.
As she delivered the petition in Melbourne to the Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash, the Shadow Minister, Senator Claire Moore and Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale, Batty made an emotional plea to fix family court loopholes which have left children in danger.
In a Facebook post Batty said she wanted Luke’s birthday to mean “something special”.
“As you know today is a hard day for me because it is Luke’s birthday,” Batty said.
“I wanted Luke’s 14th birthday to mean something really special – to be not just another day but one that was marked by significance.
“That’s why I chose today to talk about the number one issue that is raised with me wherever I go: problems with the family law system that put children in danger.
“As I handed our petition over, I had the stories of thousands of people whirling around in my head. Many of you told me those stories and I thank you for it.
“Stories of heartache and frustration, but even worse stories of horror and danger. Stories of children that have been put in harm’s way because the family law system has failed them.”
The Chief Justice of the Family Court Diana Bryant AO, and Emma Smallwood, national coordinator for Women’s Legal Services Australia, also spoke in support of the petition.
The 2015 Australian of the Year said she was thrilled the campaign, which was launched in May, had received so much support in such a short time.
“Knowing so many people are supporting me means a lot,” she said.
“And it shows this is an issue that has broad community support. People like you want to know there is a system that will keep our kids safe.
“Today was a great moment for me and for the campaign to end family violence. We have put this issue on the national agenda.”
The petition was created by The Luke Batty Foundation’s Never Alone campaign, and urges the leaders to adopt a five-step plan released by Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA) to prioritise safety in the family law system.
They argue the five steps to fix family law are:
- Develop specialist pathway for domestic violence cases in family courts.
- Reduce trauma and support those who are most at risk of future violence and death.
- Intervene early and provide effective legal help for the most disadvantaged.
- Support women and children to financially recover from domestic violence.
- Strengthen the understanding of all law professionals on domestic violence and trauma.
Emma Smallwood, national coordinator for Women’s Legal Services Australia, told Pro Bono Australia News it was an issue that should be above politics.
“I think it was really great to see all sides of parliament there, so it was really nice to have representatives from all the major parties, because what Rosie has been saying all along in this campaign is that this issue should be above politics and we would really like bipartisan support, so it was really important for us,” Smallwood said.
“We were really surprised and really happy that we got so many signatures in such a short amount of time… it came from the Never Alone Foundation, so I think most of the people who had already signed up to the Never Alone Foundation were people who were really concerned about family violence, often lots of victims of family violence, and Rosie hears from victim’s all the time that this is the number one issue that is important to them, so I think it really shows that this is a really important issue.
“I think it is really powerful when you have someone like Rosie Batty saying this is my priority, this is not an area we can ignore if we serious about tackling family violence and the family law system has to be a part of that, it is a really crucial piece, so I think they were pretty receptive to it and I am really positive it was a good step for the campaign.”
Smallwood said she is hopeful that the measures will be adopted.
“Our side of it, as Women’s Legal Services Australia, has really been more the actual practical steps in terms of what kind of initiatives would have to be implemented and we have worked with Rosie to develop those. There is obviously a lot, it’s a wide range of different initiatives and reforms that we think would address some of the key gaps in the system… it’s hard to know whether they will all be adopted, I hope that they will as that is the way we approached it, that if all of these reforms and changes were made it would mean most of the gaps would be filled,” she said.
“It was heartening as well to see the chief justice saying that she in principle supports the plan and many of the initiatives are ready to go it is just that the court needs funding, so that was really powerful I think for the senators to hear that.
“Rosie wanted that day to mean something and for her, this is really crucial and it is really difficult to get change in this area of law…. She really wanted that day to mean something and I hope that it does.”