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Violence against women and their children affects everybody. It impacts on the health, wellbeing and safety of a significant proportion of Australians throughout all states and territories and places an enormous burden on the nation’s economy across family and community services, health and hospitals, income-support and criminal justice systems.


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ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.



To support the take-up of evidence, ANROWS offers a range of resources developed from research to support practitioners and policy-makers in delivering evidence-based interventions.


Exploring the impact and effect of self-representation by one or both parties in Family Law proceedings involving allegations of family violence

Project completed
December 2020

This project examines the impact and effect of self-representation by one or both parties in Family Law proceedings involving allegations of family violence.

The Family Law system in Australia is complex. Despite this complex system, there are high numbers of litigants who do not have legal representation and represent themselves in court matters. Additionally, the Australian Family Law system also has a high proportion of matters involving family violence.

The extent of self-representation and the prevalence of family violence in Family Law matters suggests that both of these issues are likely to occur in the same proceedings.

This study aimed to:

  • generate new knowledge regarding the impact of self-representation on participants’ experiences of the Family Law process where the victim and/or the perpetrator of the violence are self-represented
  • document current practice in the Family Law Courts when one or both parties are without legal representation and the matter involves allegations of family violence
  • identify strengths, deficiencies or gaps in current practice
  • make recommendations that seek to respond directly to the issues, concerns and practices that are documented in the research.

To achieve this, the research used a general interview sample of semi-structured interviews with sellf-represented litigants (SRLs) and professionals who engage with SRLs in Family Law proceedings. The research also involved an intensive case study involving court observation, case file review, and interviews with SRLs or other representatives involved in those observed/reviewed cases.

The final report emphasises the need for enhanced, up-to-date and practical information for SRLs in multiple formats—and provision for languages other than English—including a centralised, authoritative website for SRLs. It highlights the need for increased access to lawyers and legal advice for SRLs, particularly with regard to better assisting SRLs with ongoing litigation and with preparation and drafting of documents. It recommends possible systemic change to address the current fragmentation of areas of law that respond to family violence.


Project Lead

Dr Jane Wangmann, University of Technology, Sydney

Research expertise

Ms Miranda Kaye, University of Technology Sydney

A/Prof Tracey Booth, University of Technology Sydney


Research report

“No straight lines”: Self-represented litigants in family law proceedings involving allegations about family violence


Research summary

Exploring the impact and effect of self-representation by one or both parties in family law proceedings involving allegations of family violence: Key findings and future directions




Self-representation creates barriers for women in the Family Law Courts

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Funded by Australian Commonwealth, state and territory governments under ANROWS’s 2017 core grant round.

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Contact ANROWS

PO Box Q389, Queen Victoria Building NSW 1230
Phone: 61 2 8374 4000
| Email: enquiries@anrows.org.au

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