North West Family Court

Friday 16 June, 2023

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service today urged the Federal and Family Court and Tasmanian Government to find a solution to the ongoing Burnie courthouse saga.

TALS Acting-State Manager Hannah Phillips said once again, Tasmanian Aboriginal people on the North-West Coast and West Coast are severely disadvantaged.

“Our clients will now have to travel to Launceston to be able to engage in Family Court proceedings,” Ms Phillips said. “Family Court proceedings are already hard enough for parents, children, extended family and communities”.

“By forcing our clients to undergo an additional barrier to accessing justice makes an already difficult process that much harder.”

Ms Phillips said public transport options in Tasmania are minimal. For example, there is a bus that leaves Circular Head at 7am full of school children, that returns from Launceston at 1:15pm leaving a very small window in Launceston and a real risk of missing the returning bus home if Court takes time.

“For many people on the North-West Coast, who don’t own their own car, it will almost certainly in many instances necessitate those engaging in proceedings to stay overnight in Launceston - which comes at a huge cost.”

“Many of TALS clients are struggling financially. Even being able to access a working vehicle or to be able to pay for petrol, or food away from home will be a real consideration in their attendance at court.

“We are also extremely concerned about how children will meaningfully engage in proceedings, when they are having to travel to and from court for hours.”

Ms Phillips said she was heartened by the support of Burnie Mayor Teeny Brumby and Attorney General Elise Archer.

“It was good to see the Family Court judges come to Tasmania last week.”

“But what is concerning is that the Launceston option is for the ‘foreseeable future’ – we have to find a solution in Burnie and we need to find it now.”

“The impact of this could mean a child not having a meaningful relationship with their parent, or being at risk of harm, it is not just about a building.”

Media contact: A.Mark Thomas, M&M Communications, 0422 006 732

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