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Fact or Fairy Tale?

They’re the stories and legends that many of us fell in love with during our childhood. Whether it be Rapunzel’s beautiful, luscious hair being released down the side of a 10 foot castle, or Cinderella’s rags to riches triumph, we’ve all followed and admired the mystical path of these characters at some point in our younger years. However, a recent initiative introduced by the Victorian government has seen these tales come under fire, jeopardising their future in the fiction section of the school library.

The initiative, which has been introduced as a means of addressing family violence, argues that traditional fairy tales establish a sense of male dominance and causes a sense of entitlement in boys. Critics allege the fairy tales introduce children to notions of gender-based violence too early, ultimately resulting in an increasing incidence of family violence. Consequently, there has been a push to either completely eliminate the stories from schools and pre-schools, or alternatively, encourage children to analyse the roles men and women play in the stories and identify any “gender bias” in the tales.

Irrespective of whether fairy tales are banned or not, this does not take away from the seriousness of family violence and how it is treated in a family law context. In 2011, the Family Law Act was amended to prioritise the protection of children from family violence and abuse. The most significant change was the expansion of the definition of family violence, and the prioritising of protection from harm. The definition has been extended to mean any “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of a person’s family, or causes fear”. Examples of such behaviour may include physical assault, repeated derogatory comments, financial abuse or control or social isolation.

The 2011 amendments also included a new definition which sets out the various situations that may constitute a child being exposed to family violence. For example, if a child overhears or witnesses the assault of a family member by another family member or is present when emergency services attend a scene involving an assault of a family member by another family member.

Where allegations of family violence are made, the Court must take prompt and appropriate action in order to protect the parties and/or children. In matters involving parenting, the existence of family violence is taken into consideration when determining what is in the best interests of the child in respect of the time the child spends with each parent. It is ultimately a balancing act between:

  • The benefit of the child having a meaningful relationship with both parents; and
  • The need to protect a child from harm (physical or psychological), abuse, neglect and family violence.

If the matter does not involve children, parties are able to seek a domestic violence order to protect themselves or others. The terms of these orders vary dependant on the circumstances. For example, the order may prohibit someone approaching you, friends or relatives at homework; or prevent them from staying in the home you currently or previously share.

Whether fairy tales are contributing to the situation or not, family violence is a serious issue in family law matters. If we can assist you in seeking or responding to a domestic violence order, or you require assistance with parenting matters involving family violence, please contact our team of Toowoomba Family Lawyers on (07) 3210 0281.

If your situation is life threatening in any way, please call 000 for urgent assistance.