WLSA Newsletter #1 2016

We wanted to say a big thank you to all of our members and associate members for your ongoing support of WLSA and the network’s law reform coordinator position. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to be such a strong and vocal advocate for access to justice for women across Australia.  

Wrapping up 2015

Taking the stage with Rosie Batty

Our outgoing WLSA law reform coordinator, Heidi Guldbaek, together with Rosie Batty, delivered a plenary session at the 2015 National Asssociation of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) Conference in Melbourne in August. Heidi’s speech focussed on how we frame the family violence debate and the need to create powerful messages that speak the truth about male violence against women.

Momentum building to stop direct cross-examination in family law

In October 2015, WLSA stepped up its pressure on the Federal Government to introduce legislative protections stopping  direct cross examination of family violence victims in family courts.

WLSA drafted an open letter to the Federal Attorney General and Minister Cash, which was co-signed by a broad range of peak bodies and organisations including Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils Australia, AWAVA and No To Violence | Men’s Referral Service.  

WLSA have also undertaken a community scoping survey to assess the extent to which women are experiencing or in fear of direct cross-examination in family law. The results have been remarkable.  To date there have been over 270 responses. WLSA members also presented on the issue on the findings of our survey regarding the experiences of women who were directly cross-examined by their abusers at trial, during the 2015 Australian Stop Domestic Violence Conference

WLSA are working closely with advocate, Eleanor, and online campaigning organisation, Fair Agenda, to advance this policy ask. Fair Agenda is running a petition which ash garnered over 5000 signatures on the issue.

WLSA in the media

WLSA’s open letter on direct cross-examination and Eleanor’s story received some great media coverage:

UN Universal Periodic Review - Women's Rights

Throughout 2015, WLSA was actively engaged in the review of Australia’s human rights record through the United Nations Universal Periodic Review process. We mainly participated by advocating for women's rights through our engagement with the Equality Rights Alliance, one of the National Women’s Alliances and through involvement on the NGO Coalition UPR Advisory Group co-ordinated by NACLC, the Human Rights Law Centre and Kingsford Legal Centre.  

Australia’s UPR appearance took place in Geneva in November 2015 - 290 recommendations were made by 104 countries. Australia must provide a formal response to the recommendations by 29 February 2016. The Attorney-General’s Department held an NGO Human Rights forum in December to discuss the UPR recommendations.  WLSA participated in this forum and also contributed to the NGO response to the implementation of recommendations. We look forward to the Government's ongoing engagement with civil society regarding the implementation of these recommendations.  


What’s happening in 2016?

Family law campaign

WLSA has its sights firmly set on the Federal election campaign in 2016. New law reform coordinator, Pasanna Mutha, is currently working on developing a set of key asks to improve the responsiveness of the family law system to family violence and lobbying MPs and Senators to secure key election commitments from all political parties. WLSA committee memebrs will be meeting with politicians and promoting the campaign through its networks and the media.  Stay tuned for more information!

WLSA planning day

WLSA is hosting a planning day for committee members in Melbourne in February. The planning day will assist in setting the network’s advocacy priorities for the next two years and assist in planning our  2016 family law campaign.

Our committee for 2016

  • Law Reform Coordinator – Pasanna Mutha, Women’s Legal Service Victoria - (03) 8622 0600 or pasanna@womenslegal.org.au
  • Chair– Pauline van Adrichem, Women’s Legal Service Tasmania
  • Elena Rosenman – Women’s Legal Centre ACT
  • Angela Lynch -  Women’s Legal Service (Queensland)
  • Zita Ngor – Women’s Legal Service (SA) Inc
  • Liz Snell – Women’s Legal Service NSW
  • Julia Parkin – Central Australian Women’s Legal Service
  • Heidi Guldbaek – Women’s Law Centre of Western Australia 

Membership of WLSA

A big thank you to everyone who has provided us with their membership forms and fees. Your support is vital to us continuing to advocate at a national level for women and their children. Please provide any outstanding membership forms and payment by 5pm, Friday 5th of February to amber@womenslegal.org.au.