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Young people’s views on family separation submitted to national law reform review

The voices of 12 WA children and young people were submitted to the national review of the family law system released this week.

Commissioner Colin Pettit said he wanted to ensure WA young people had the opportunity to include their views in the current national discussion, led by the Australian Law Reform Commission review.

“I invited children and young people who wanted to have their stories heard to share their experiences, what they found helpful during family separation and any ideas they have to improve the experience for others,” Mr Pettit said.

Twelve WA young people aged between 12 and 20 participated through interviews and written responses.

The key issues WA young people highlighted in making post-separation parenting decisions were:

• ongoing, open and respectful communication with parents during and after separation
• being listened to by parents and service providers
• being treated fairly and as a person of value in their own right
• professionals who had a good rapport with children, were respectful, competent and capable of taking action.

“While children are central to many of the family disputes seen by the court and despite the best intentions of the system, they do not always have a meaningful opportunity to express their views and perspectives on all of the issues and decisions being made,” Mr Pettit said.

“The experiences of young people who generously shared their stories highlight the need for more effective ways for children and young people to give their feedback, share concerns and be involved in decision-making within the family court structure, both at the time of proceedings and after they have left the system.”

Mr Pettit thanked the 12 young people who agreed to discuss their family experiences and said that these young people were speaking up on behalf of a larger cohort.

The views of children and young people expressed through this consultation were also provided to the Family Court of WA. Mr Pettit said he would review the final Australian Law Reform Commission report and monitor implementation of recommendations within WA.