We demand that the Members of Parliament and the NZ Judicial System undertake a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the New Zealand Family Court System, as per the call of the Backbone Collective.
We are the parents, families, communities and supporters of children involved in Family Court cases, and we are appalled at the lack of safety, accountability and transparency in the existing Family Court system as a whole, and particularly where Domestic Violence is involved.
The Human Rights of children, and of survivors of violence against women are being breached by the Family Courts system every day.
We must have an Inquiry into the Family Courts as it is failing to observe and uphold the law surrounding Care of Children and Domestic Violence.
Observing and upholding the law is vital in order to save the lives and wellbeing of thousands of innocent loved ones who go through Family Court cases each year.
*All signed letters will be delivered to Parliament this week, so please share to your social media to help spread the word!*
In 2016, over 60,000 cases went through the Family Courts, and of those, over 6,800 children were involved in cases initiated under the Domestic Violence Act.
After separating from abusive partners, we expect that the Family Court should provide survivors of violence against women with protection and safety, for them and their children. The experiences of our community however, reveal that this is very rarely the case, and instead the Family Court is unjustly removing children from their protective mothers, and handing them over or even forcing them back into the abusive environments that they were removed from.
In May this year, the Backbone Collective undertook a survey of almost 500 women who had been involved in the Family Court system post-separation. The survey report found that their experiences of violence and abuse were not believed, were minimized, their evidence was struck out, they were blamed for the violence and abuse, silenced, or their experiences were never responded to.
We believe these findings are but a micro-reflection of a rising voice of thousands who are currently suffering in fear, traumatised by longterm abuse that has been sanctioned by the Family Court. For many years, complaints have been made appealing Family Court decisions and telling those in authority of the harm that the Family Court is doing. They have not listened or taken action to change what is happening. However in time, history will reveal the blood on the hands of all those who participated in these harmful Family Court practices, or who stood by passively while our children suffered this state sanctioned abuse.
Not only is it your professional duty to expose and address the systemic failings of the Family Court, it is your moral and ethical duty to provide a voice to victims and to ensure a robust framework moving forward by which to protect our children of Aotearoa. We are unified in our view that the harm being done by the Family Court is the result of the interpretation, implementation of the current laws.
These problems will not be fixed by legislative changes, but only by an Inquiry into the entire Family Court system. There is enough evidence before you to call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Family Court immediately.
As a community, we are distressed, grieving and fearful for the safety and lives of our loved ones who have been and are being abused by the current system. We anticipate many further social issues will result as a direct consequence of the harmful operation of the current Family Court System and urge you to take action immediately in order to prevent further abuse, crime, and tragedy in the lives of our children!
1 - Backbone Collective is a national coalition of survivors of Violence Against Women in Aotearoa New Zealand - https://www.backbone.org.nz
2 - NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse Data June 2017 - https://nzfvc.org.nz/sites/nzfvc.org.nz/files/DS3-Children-and-Youth-2017.pdf
3 - Backbone Collective 2017 reports can be viewed at https://www.backbone.org.nz/latest-activity/
4 - Image is by Bev Short. The women in black veils represent all those women who have experienced violence and abuse but who are afraid to show their faces for fear of being punished by the Family Court for speaking out about how the system is failing to keep them and their children safe. The black veils also represent the hundred or more women who are murdered by their (ex) partners every 10 years in New Zealand. Many of the women who came together to participate in this photograph have their own story to tell; some are survivors, others are friends or family off survivors and some work on the front line with victims. Two of the women participated in memory of their loved ones who had been murdered – in one instance an Auntie and in the other a daughter – both of whom had been brutally murdered by their partners.