Court is not a place for children (25.09.2013)

Written on the 25 September 2013

Recent changes to legislation in the Victorian Parliament will improve the experience of children, young people and their families who are involved in child protection and family violence proceedings in the family division of the Children's Court of Victoria.

The change is in the Children, Youth and Families Amendment Bill 2013 and as a result, children – young people - will not have to physically attend the Children's Court. Child protection workers will explain to children what is involved in attending court and ascertain whether they wish to attend. If they choose to go, the workers will familiarise them with what will occur on the day. If a child chooses not to attend, arrangements will be made for the child to give instructions to a lawyer away from the court building.

A visit to the ‘Family Court’ is a truly horrifying experience, and for children who are already going through a traumatic event, this change will mean that ‘the system’ does not add to their emotional trauma. This is a giant step in the right direction.

The bill strengthens laws to protect children and seeks to find ways to continue to expand and underpin new mechanisms for problem solving. Importantly the bill streamlines processes within court proceedings by tailoring them to the tasks which they are intended to undertake.

It is important to commend the Minister for Community Services and the Attorney-General.

The coalition government is delivering on its commitments (set out in the directions paper, Victoria's Vulnerable Children - Our Shared Responsibility) and is putting the welfare of the child first and foremost in our thinking.

The amendments made by this Bill are a further significant step in reforming the protection of Victoria’s vulnerable children. The amendments will improve the experience of children involved in child protection proceedings and support the court in making proceedings less adversarial and more conductive to being able to achieve outcomes in the best interest of the child.

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