THE Family Court has been unable to say who paid for a lewd comedy act that offended senior judges at its national conference.
Chief Justice Diana Bryant reportedly personally organised a female comedy duo that simulated sex in mock judicial robes as part of a performance that prompted several senior figures to leave the room.
But a spokeswoman for Justice Bryant said that while the Family Court paid for the dinner, it did not pay for the comedy duo to appear – and the spokeswoman was unable to confirm who did actually pay for the act.
“The court hasn’t paid for it and it won’t be paying for it,” she said.
Justice Bryant apologised for the act, which was held before the National Family Law Conference in Hobart last week.
She has previously said the Federal Magistrates Court, which assists in family law matters, was “never resourced properly”.
In a recent judgment, Justice Victoria Bennett highlighted the Family Court’s struggle to meet demand, citing an instance in which mediation had to be outsourced because there was “no technological support for a mediation to be conducted audio visually between Melbourne and Johannesburg”.
Justice Bennett wrote: “I understand that the Court and its administration are in the midst of a most serious strategy to cut spending.
“However, this case illustrates some ways in which our lack of resources has compromised the Court’s ability to deliver its core services.”
Some families have been waiting up to two years for over-worked judges to deliver decisions in an under-resourced system.
Some have been forced to abandon litigation and sort out their own troubles, wasting tens of thousands of dollars on legal costs.
Last financial year, there were an estimated 21,000 family court filings, 6000 more than four years earlier. An average of 150 divorce applications are filed each week.
Brisbane family law specialist Deborah Awyzio said delays often raised the “cost of accessing justice”.
“It just means people who are using the court system are waiting longer to receive their judgments and it’s also taking longer to get a trial,” she said.
“That sometimes results in more costs being incurred by the parties. If it’s a property matter, they have to get updated valuations and that costs thousands of dollars.”
Ms Awyzio said the accumulation of legal fees meant some families had to re-evaluate claims.
“Litigants do have to make a decision as to whether it’s cost-effective to continue with litigation or to try and compromise their claim.”