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Cultural Best Interests of Children

By September 2, 2016No Comments

Recent high profile media cases such as the Sally Faulker incident have highlighted that modern families are increasingly complicated: they may come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and can end up living far apart. This is especially true for Australia as a multicultural society and raises challenges for divorced parents trying to raise children in a way that recognises their cultural heritage. There are serious practical challenges in doing this however, as highlighted in a recent case in the Family Court. In this case the child lived in Sydney with the mother while the father was an Indigenous Australian living in the Northern Territory. The young child had some limited contact with the father, but there were concerns that the child wasn’t ready to spend 11 days at a smoking ceremony in outback Australia without the mother present. Unfortunately, neither parent could afford to pay for the mother’s accommodation during the ceremony. Ultimately this led to a clash regarding the best interests of the child: the child taking part in an important cultural ceremony to recognise their heritage, or the mental wellbeing of the child and the trauma of being away from their mother.

On Appeal the Family Court ruled that the best interest of the child was its wellbeing and taking part in a significant cultural ceremony did not trump this. However the court did recognise the importance of cultural heritage and taking part in such ceremonies. The comments of the court indicated that in different circumstances in which there were fewer practical impediments to the child taking part, then the court would uphold the cultural best interests of the child.

Read more about the case and judgement here:


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