Exploring Gendered Trauma Within Family Law

Family law processes within the Courts
Thursday 26 July, 1320 – 1340


Rachael Fernald
RMIT University

This paper is based on an analysis of Family Court of Australia parenting order hearings that sought to identify the presence of potential gendered trauma on victims of family violence in the application of the law. The thematic analysis involved sampling 20 transcripts of Family Court order hearings from the Federal Circuit Court of Australia-listed judgments between January and July 2015.

The research found three key ways that gendered trauma was perpetuated: dismissing family violence evidence as trivial and/or expecting high evidentiary standards to prove family violence; not applying the same standards to men; and poor parenting given more weight than risks to children. Several case examples are explored which illustrate how the Family Court can either perpetuate or minimise the effects of women’s experiences of gendered trauma in the application of the law.

The paper also highlights possible policy reforms to improve the current legal response to victims of family violence in parenting order hearings thereby preventing the perpetuation of gendered trauma and recognising and responding appropriately to the impacts of family violence.