LABOR TO PROVIDE PERMANENT JUDGE FOR THE ILLAWARRA

Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird have today announced that a Shorten Labor Government will ease the burden of families experiencing delays in the Wollongong Federal Circuit Court by providing a permanent, full-time judge.

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The announcement forms part of Labor’s $43.21 million package to ensure better access for those using Australia’s family court system.

The Illawarra MPs have long advocated for a new permanent judge to relieve the backlogs crippling the Wollongong court which currently does not have the services of a full-time, permanent judge.

It follows years of the federal Government being asleep at the wheel when it comes to problems facing the court system in the region.

Delays have become so bad that a matter filed in Wollongong today won’t be heard until well into 2018. This caused enormous stress for families trying to resolve complex family dispute matters with some forced to travel to Sydney with their lawyers resulting in legal costs that many people can’t afford.

Sharon Bird said that Brandis’s neglect had hurt the local area.

“Two years is far too long for families to wait to have their cases heard and long waits in dispute resolution adds to the stress already faced by families during the breakdown of relationships. 

“Families need to have their disputes heard in a timely manner to prevent further distress during difficult periods.  It is better for both the adults and children involved if matters can be addressed within a reasonable timeframe.

“The local community has lobbied strongly for this appointment and only Labor has stepped up to address and rectify the problem through the appointment of a permanent, full-time judge.

Stephen Jones said that Labor was listening to the concerns of the local community.

“We just never stopped fighting because we knew how important this was.

“The Government has ignored the situation and hoped it all went away. At Senate Estimates earlier this year the Attorney-General George Brandis tried to claim that no one from the Illawarra had contacted him about resourcing the family law registry in Wollongong.

“The only problem with that is that Sharon Bird and I had written twice to the Attorney-General and his office had even responded to one of the letters.

“They simply don’t care; we raised urgent community concerns with him again and again.

“A two-year backlog in cases clearly isn’t good enough. It shouldn’t matter whether you live in a major city or a regional area; people deserve to have their cases heard. 

“Labor listened and more importantly we acted.”

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