Abbey's tragic poem to dad: "You left me dead inside'
ABBEY'S Project is the kind of report you simply do not want to read.
Compiled by national child protection lobby group Bravehearts over two years, this 227-page analysis of the Australian family law system and its failings contains 15 harrowing stories of sexual abuse survival.
Each story's common thread is dysfunction in the legal system that allows perpetrators to have access to their little victims.
The story of 17-year-old Abbey is the most distressing of the 15 case studies of the family law system placing children in direct risk of sexual harm.
The West Australian teenager killed herself in November 2013 after the Family Court allowed her convicted child sex offender father to spend time with her.
Just two months before she died, 17-year-old Abbey wrote a poem to her father, expressing the pain and anguish he forced upon her.
"You took away all my innocence, left me dead inside," the poem reads.
"I'm broken now, torn and ripped in pieces."
Delivering the report to the Federal Government this week, Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said she hoped urgent reform of Australia's "fundamentally flawed family law system" would happen before more lives were lost.
"The family law system … as it stands now is the most dangerous institution for children in this country," Ms Johnston said.
She said the two-year privately funded investigation unearthed deficiencies in Family Court and child protection practices, policies and procedures that resulted in children being assaulted or placed at serious risk of sexual harm.
"Abbey's Project aims to give a voice to children, parents and others who have been through the family law system in Australia and feel they have not been heard, protected or supported by this system," she said.
"The public response to participate in this project has been overwhelming.
"We received more than 320 expressions of interest.
"Clearly not all could be included in detail, and sadly, many of their experiences are so alike that including them would only serve to duplicate.
"Suffice to say, the experiences depicted in the 15 case studies highlighted in this report are in no way unique."
Bravehearts was not the only organisation to take the family law system to task this week.
On Monday, anti-domestic violence campaigner and 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty handed a petition calling for changes to the family law system to the Coalition, Labor and the Greens.
The petition, containing more than 20,000 signatures, outlined five key areas for reform and had the backing of more than 90 Australian legal and support agencies.
Family Court of Australia Chief Justice Diana Bryant said reforming the system needed a good dose of federal cash.
"Although funding has been made available and promised to provide better access to justice and to assist those affected by family violence, so far, surprisingly, not $1 has been committed to the cause," she said following the Justice for Kids petition hand-over on Monday.
"My message is the court would like to implement measures consistent with the five-point plan but all aspects affecting the courts would require a financial investment.
"New measures and initiatives can't be met from existing resources."
Over the past few weeks, the Coalition, Labor and the Greens have committed varying degrees of funding to combat domestic violence and provide support for victims but none of the parties has so far supported reforms for the family court system.
A Coalition spokeswoman said the Bravehearts report and the Justice for Kids petitions would be given due consideration if the Coalition returned to office on July 2.
She said the Coalition would also consider the upcoming Australian Institute of Family Studies to research on the effects on children and young people of involvement in the family law system and the Family Law Council's soon to be released report on the needs of families with complex legal needs in the family court system.
The ALP and Coalition have not yet responded to ARM Newsdesk's request for comment.
# If you are at risk of sexual assault or require support please phone Bravehearts on 1800 272 831; If you are at risk of domestic violence please phone the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. - ARM NEWSDESK