Distinguished Speakers Program: Professor Nicholas Bala
22 February 2012
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Professor Nicholas Bala of Queens University, Kingston, Ontario will deliver the first lecture as part of the SydneyLaw School Distinguished Speakers Program 2012. The title of the lecture will be 2011 Family Law Amendments and family violence: Has Parliament finally got it right?
Australia's post-separation parenting legislation is among the most complex and frequently amended laws of its kind in the world. The complexity and frequency of amendment are inter-related, as it is profoundly challenging to address a very broad range of cases by detailed directive legislation.
The 2006 reforms had significant positive effects, encouraging dispute resolution outside the courts. The 2011 amendments aim to address some problems created by the 2006 reforms, by dealing more effectively with family violence and ensuring that shared parental care is not used inappropriately, broadening the definition of family violence and giving priority to a child's safety over maintaining a relationship with both parents.
Despite its length and detail, the 2011 law does not give clear guidance for making complex decisions, often in a context of factual uncertainty and difficulty in predicting the future. All family justice professionals, including judges, must understand the risks posed by family violence, as well as the need for differentiated approaches to parenting plans when it is alleged. Although safety of children must be a priority, professionals must make individualised assessments that consider the '5Ps of family violence'.They must also take account of the stage of the proceedings and the resources available to ensure safety. They must also address the challenge of false or exaggerated allegations of family violence, as well as of false denials by perpetrators and false recantations by victims. Effective responses to family violence and other parenting issues depend more on public and professional education, resources, professional practices and research than on legislation. It is important to recognize both the value of a good legislative framework for family violence cases and its limitations.
Nicholas Bala is a leading Canadian expert on issues related to children, youth and families in the justice system, and a Law Professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada. Much of his research work is interdisciplinary, collaborating with psychologists, social workers, criminologists and health professionals to better understand how the law and the justice system should address such issues as parental rights and responsibilities after divorce, including parental alienation; spousal abuse and its effects on children, young offenders, child witnesses and child abuse. Nick has published extensively in journals in law, medicine, psychology and social work. His work is often quoted by all levels of court in Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada, and has also been cited by courts in the United States and Britain.
This lecture is presented as part of the Sydney Law School Distinguished Speakers Program 2012. Click here for the latest program information.
Lawyers/barristers: attendance at this seminar is equal to 1 MCLE/CPD unit.
Time: Registration from 5.30pm for a 6-7pm lecture followed by a cocktail reception until 8pm
Cost: $25 full fee; $20 SLS alumni: $10 USyd students
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Phone: 02 9351 0238