Victims of family violence can seek protection via an intervention order. Police can also seek intervention orders without a victim’s consent. Orders can prohibit a variety of actions by a perpetrator. Injunctions or restraining orders also have a role to play. Refuges and Centrelink can all help protect victims.

Trigger warning

Please note this chapter (and pages it links to) contains information about family violence that may be triggering to family violence survivors.


Renata Alexander


Changes to the Family Law Act and the family courts

Last updated

1 July 2022

Changes have recently been made to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (‘FL Act’) that directly relate to family violence; some changes have already come into operation, while further changes are proposed.

Many of these changes aim to align state and federal laws. There have also been recent changes to the structure of the court hearing family law matters.

Proposed changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

Only a few of the changes to the FL Act were outlined in the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence report, and some were recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) after it completed a comprehensive review of Australia’s family law system.

The final ALRC report of this review, called ‘Report 135: Family Law for the Future – An Inquiry into the Family Law System’, was tabled in federal parliament in April 2019 (available at In this report, there were very few references to family violence. One recommendation was to amend the FL Act to include a statutory tort (i.e. a civil wrong) of family violence that would provide remedies that are consistent with existing common law remedies. The government responded to the ALRC report in March 2021. This recommendation was only noted; the government’s response outlined problems and lack of support from stakeholders (see ‘Government Response to ALRC Report 135’, available at

Another federal parliamentary committee was established in 2019 to examine Australia’s family law system. This Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System released two interim reports and then the final report in November 2021. It only made four recommendations including the expansion of the Lighthouse Project and passing legislation to implement and enforce federal family violence orders.

This recommendation refers to the Family Law Amendment (Federal Family Violence Orders) Bill 2021 (Cth). This Bill proposes the introduction of federal family violence orders to enable parties to seek protection simultaneously in parenting/property matters, rather than filing for protective orders under state or territory legislation. The Bill lapsed upon the dissolution of parliament in April 2022.

Changes to family courts

On 1 September 2021, the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court merged into the new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA).

The FCFCOA has two divisions:

  • Division 1 has absorbed the Family Court cases, hears more complex cases, and also operates as an appeal division in all family law matters.
  • Division 2 has absorbed the Federal Circuit Court cases and has jurisdiction in general federal law matters including family law and child support.

The FCFCOA has a totally new case management system with new rules, new judicial officers, new names, new forms and new procedures. All new cases are initiated in Division 2; complex cases may be transferred to Division 1.

Magellan List

Cases involving allegations of serious physical or sexual abuse of children can be transferred to the Magellan List in Division 1 of the FCFCOA. This is a special list with dedicated registrars, child experts and judicial officers. Court staff work in collaboration with child welfare agencies. The cases in this list are fast-tracked.

Lighthouse Project

The FCFCOA introduced its second specialised family violence program in 2021. It comprises a special screening and triage procedure and a special Evatt List; these are referred to jointly as the Lighthouse Project. The program entails a separate pathway within a set time frame. It covers cases involving allegations of risks to children of family violence, parental substance abuse, parental mental illness, and/or parental criminal behaviour. The program is in the pilot stage in interstate registries but is expected to rollout to Victoria.

For more information, see the FCFCOA’s website.

Cross-examination ban

An important change to the FL Act introduced in September 2019 is the ban on personal cross-examination in family law cases where family violence is alleged and certain circumstances apply (see s 102NA FL Act).

For example, if a final family violence order is in place between the parties, then an unrepresented party (who is the alleged perpetrator) cannot personally cross-examine the other party (who is the alleged victim). 

Cross-examination can only be done by a legal representative. The court may request assistance from Victoria Legal Aid to fund legal representation in such cases. 

If a party does not have legal representation, cross-examination is not permitted or may only be permitted by the court if alternative protections are used (e.g. the cross-examination is conducted via video-link).

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