F. Questionnaire findings

To facilitate input from individual members of the community, the Committee made available a questionnaire, which could be completed online or in hard copy. The questionnaire was launched in March 2017 and remained open until the end of September 2017. The questionnaire was completed by 5,490 respondents.
The questionnaire consisted of 65 questions which were a mix of closed and open questions, most of which were non-compulsory. This appendix presents a selection of quantitative results from the questionnaire. Some responses to the open text questions have been thematically integrated throughout the report.

Demographic Data

The majority of respondents were aged between 35 and 44 years, and identified as female.3.65 per cent of respondents identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The majority of respondents reported speaking English as a first language, and residing in Australia.

Figure :  Age of Respondents

Figure :  Gender of Respondents


Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Status
Are you Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
182
3.65%
No
4,799
96.35%
Total
4981
100%
English as a first language
Is English your first language?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
4,689
94.69%
No
263
5.31%
Total
4,952
100%
Residential Status
Do you live in Australia?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
4,901
98.59%
No
70
1.41%
Total
4971
100%

Experience with family violence

The majority of respondents reported having experience with family violence, or having a family member or friend who has experienced family violence.
Do you have experience with family violence?
Response
Percentage
Yes
4601
91.69%
No
417
8.31%
Total
5018
100%

Figure :  What is the nature of your experience of family violence?

NB: Respondents were able to choose multiple answers, thus percentages will not total 100.

Involvement of Children

Over three quarters of respondents reported having care of one or more children. Further, three quarters of respondents also reported that the children had experienced family violence at some point. The majority of children had been exposed to family violence, or subjected to family violence personally. Interestingly, many respondents reported that their children had not been involved in the child protection system.
Do you care for children?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
3,780
76.78%
No
1,143
23.22%
Total
4,923
100%

Have these children had experience with family violence?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
3044
75.97%
No
963
24.03%
Total
4,007
100%

Figure :  What is the nature of the children’s experience of family violence?

Have any of these children been involved in the child protection system?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
914
22.90%
No
3077
77.10%
Total
3991
100%

Current and previous matters before a court

Approximately 30 per cent of respondents reported having current family law, child support or domestic violence matters presently before a court. The majority of these matters were pending before the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court.
Over half of respondents recorded that they have been involved in previous matters before a court. Of these, the majority appeared before a Magistrates or district court.
Do you have any family law, child support or domestic violence matters currently pending before a court?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
1449
30.31%
No
3331
69.69%
Total
4780
100%

Figure :  Before which court is your matter pending?

NB: Respondents were able to choose multiple answers, thus percentages will not total 100.
Have you previously had any family law, child support, or family violence matters before a court?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
2824
59.77%
No
1901
40.23%
Total
4725
100%

Figure :  Before which court did your matter appear?

NB: Respondents were able to choose multiple answers, thus percentages will not total 100.

Parenting plans and child support assessments

Approximately one quarter of respondents had entered into a parenting plan or a parenting order by consent. Over half of respondents reported receiving a child support assessment, and over 40 per cent of respondents reported citing family violence as an issue in these assessments.

Figure :  Have you entered into a parenting plan or had any parenting orders?

NB: Respondents were able to choose multiple answers, thus percentages will not total 100.
Have you had a child support assessment?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
2796
60.48%
No
1927
39.52%
Total
4623
100%
When applying for your child support assessment, did you cite family violence as an issue?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
1426
41.26%
No
2030
58.74%
Total
3456
100%

Property or spousal maintenance orders

Most respondents had not, and were not, seeking property or spousal maintenance orders. However, for those that had or were seeking orders, 25 per cent of these were property orders.
Have you had or are you seeking a property order or spousal maintenance order?
Responses
Percentage
Property order
1091
25.53%
Spousal maintenance order
276
6.46%
Neither
3114
72.86%
Total
4274
104.85%
NB: Respondents were able to choose multiple answers, thus percentages will not total 100.

Family or alternative dispute resolution

Over half of the respondents reported having undertaken some form of formal family or alternative dispute resolution. However, less than 8 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the family or alternative dispute resolution process.
Have you undertaken any formal family or alternative dispute resolution?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
2374
57.59%
No
1748
42.41%
Total
4122
100%

Figure :  How satisfied were you with the process of family or alternative dispute resolution?

Court appearances

Over half of respondents reported that they had appeared before a court in relation to a family violence matter. In the majority of these cases the respondent was self-represented or represented by a privately funded legal representative. Interestingly, respondents reported that the ‘other’ party was mostly represented by a privately funded legal representative.
Responses to the questionnaire also indicate significant safety concerns for respondents regarding being in the courtroom. Despite this, only 24 per cent of respondents report being offered a safety plan in relation to their court appearance.

Have you ever appeared before a court in relation to a family violence matter?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
2379
56.82%
No
1808
43.18%
Total
4187
100%

Figure :  How were you represented in court?

NB: Respondents were able to choose multiple answers, thus percentages will not total 100.

Figure :  How was the other party represented?

NB: Respondents were able to choose multiple answers, thus percentages will not total 100.

Figure :  How safe did you feel during court proceedings?

Were you offered a safety plan in relation to your court appearance?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
638
24.75%
No
1940
75.25%
Total
2578
100%

Self-representation

High number of respondents who reported representing themselves in court, expressed dissatisfaction with the support and assistance provided by the courts as well as support services. However, more respondents reported being ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with support services, as compared to courts.

Figure :  If you represented yourself in court, were you satisfied with the assistance provided to you from the courts?

Figure :  If you represented yourself in court, were you satisfied with the assistance provided to you from support services?

Cross-examination

Just under half of respondents to the questionnaire stated that they had been subject to cross-examination at court. However, the majority of respondents were not cross-examined by the person accused of perpetrating family violence. Similarly, most respondents were not required to cross-examine the person accused of family violence. Regardless, 72 per cent of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the way the court had handled the cross-examination process.
Table 6.Were you subjected to cross-examination at court?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
1018
45.96%
No
1197
54.04%
Total
2215
100%
Were you directly cross-examined by a person accused of perpetrating family violence against you or a family member?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
381
17.79%
No
1761
82.21%
Total
2142
100%
Were you required to directly cross-examine a person accused of perpetrating family violence against you or a family member?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
266
12.52%
No
1858
87.48%
Total
2124
100%
Were you satisfied with how the cross-examination process was handled by the court?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
357
27.27%
No
952
72.73%
Total
1309
100%

Court Orders

The majority of respondents had obtained a court order in relation to family violence, in an attempt to keep them or their children safe. 27 per cent of respondents reported having had a court order brought against them.
Have you obtained any type of court order relation to domestic or family violence for your own safety or that of your children?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
1611
72.57%
No
609
27.43%
Total
2220
100%
Has any court order been granted against you as a result of domestic or family violence?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
608
27.65%
No
1591
72.35%
Total
2199
100%

Multi-jurisdictional issues

Almost half of respondents had legal proceedings occurring in more than one court and, of those, 80 per cent felt unsatisfied with the coordination between courts.
In relation to any family violence matters, have you been involved in legal proceedings in more than one court?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
1078
48.89%
No
1127
51.11%
Total
2205
100%
Were you satisfied with the level of coordination between the different courts?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
244
19.84%
No
986
80.16%
Total
1230
100%

Capacity of family law professionals

Respondents rated most family law professionals as having very poor understanding of family violence. Less than 10 per cent of respondents rated any category of family law professionals as having more than an adequate level of understanding of family violence.

Figure :  Respondent’s ratings of the level of understanding of family law professionals in relation to family violence.

Progress of matters before court

Approximately half of respondents reported that their matters were resolved by court judgement. Further, over 30 per cent of respondents indicated that one or more of their matters were not yet resolved, and were the subject of further proceedings.

Figure :   In relation to any of the matters in which you have been involved, how were these matters resolved?

NB: Respondents were able to choose multiple answers, thus percentages will not total 100.
Once finalised, were any of your matters the subject of further proceedings?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
923
37.64%
No
1529
62.36%
Total
2452
100%

Financial Recovery

The majority of respondents reported suffering financial hardship as a result of family violence.
Have you suffered financial hardship as a result of family violence?
Responses
Percentage
Yes
3004
84.79%
No
539
15.21%
Total
3543
100%

Safety in the family law system

The majority of respondents reported that they felt unsafe or very unsafe within the family law system. Less than 15 per cent of respondents had felt safe within the family law system.

Figure :  How safe did you feel, overall, during your interaction with the family law system?


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