Uphold the UN recommendation that there is a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the NZ Family Court
Let's Listen to the Experts
New Zealand’s EEO Commissioner Jackie Blue, recently recommended a Royal Commission of Inquiry into New Zealand’s Family Court, a call that was repeated by the United Nations CEDAW Committee following a review of New Zealand’s response to the human rights of women.
Minister Andrew Little however, in a unilateral decision announced on the day the CEDAW recommendation was released, stated that New Zealand would NOT hold a Royal Commission of Inquiry, but would instead continue with the proposed review of the 2014 Family Court reforms.
We strongly believe that New Zealand needs to follow the UN’s recommendation. Allowing the Family Court to continue to function in the way that it has, constitutes state funded abuse, resulting in serious violations of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of women and children who have experienced violence and abuse.
‘The Committee is concerned about the apparent crisis within the Family Courts system, reflected in mistreatment of women, particularly women victims of domestic violence’.
We Urgently Need A Royal Commission To Clean Up The Family Court
Our violence and abuse statistics are shameful. The Family Court is an integral part of the system that responds to violence and abuse. It needs to respond safely in these cases, and it is not.
The Backbone Collective's five reports produced over the last 18 months have highlighted that there are systemic failures where women and children are being marginalised in the NZ Family Court, and these failures are supported by a culture that condones violence.
It is pertinent that only four hours before CEDAW’s recommendations were released, Judge Connell, a Hamilton Judge, was quoted by The NZ Herald. His comments were shocking and disturbing and provide an example of the thinking we experience from those working in the Family Court.
“Often dads who indulge in violence are not necessarily bad fathers and, in fact, they do have a bond with their child... And as soon as you start putting people inside and remanding in custody you're breaking that bond. And that damages children badly."
We know first-hand what is wrong with the current system. Our children suffer under orders of the Family Court. We suffer and are repeatedly endangered by the Family Court system.
It is not safe for us to speak out individually, but The Backbone Collective has surveyed hundreds of New Zealand women who have experienced violence and abuse who used the Family Court, and their findings are detailed in their reports available online.
Shocking detail about the unsafe practices and decisions coming out from the court has been revealed – abused women and children feeling controlled, frightened, terrorised, put down, silenced and punished for speaking out about the abuse in the Family Court. Women described the Family Court as having an enormous and negative impact on their finances, and their physical and mental health.
Why is it that the New Zealand Government have known about what is happening in the Family Court for many years, but are continuing to choose to do nothing effective, thereby neglecting its duty of care to protect women and children from harm?
What's Wrong With Andrew Little's Plan To Just Have a Review
We know, as indeed does CEDAW, that the proposed review of the Family Court reforms of 2014 will go nowhere near deep enough to expose what has been happening.
New Zealand’s system of government requires that an inquiry into the operation and culture of the Family Court simply cannot be done by a Ministerial Review such as the one the Government is about to announce. Only a Public Inquiry or a Royal Commission can do this.
There must be powers to subpoena witnesses, interview judges and other court officials, and review case files, decisions and orders. This cannot be achieved under the Governments proposed review.
The proposed Review of the Family Court is focused on the legislative reforms made in 2014, but the problems women are telling Backbone about, have been happening for many years before the 2014 reforms.
Furthermore, only a Public Inquiry or a Royal Commission can provide a safe way for women and children who have experienced violence and abuse, to make submissions, and to give evidence of their experiences in the Family Court without fear of negative repercussions.
Why Our Request is Urgent
There is urgency in our petition as the likelihood of punishment for speaking out about the Family Court is now becoming more formalised - there is a Reform Bill currently before parliament seeking to strengthen contempt of court legislation, which will make it even easier to punish those who critique the court or the judiciary, with the possibility of a jail sentence. Things need to get better – not worse.
Let’s Do This
It is abhorrent that with each day that passes, while our government chooses to ignore the recommendation of the UN to undertake a Royal Commission of Inquiry, more and more women and children in New Zealand are abused by the system that is supposed to make them safer.
You can read more about CEDAW's recommendations
and The Backbone Collective reports