National News

Childrens' voices 'lost' in court: report

"To dad," the letter begins.

"I feel worried, scared and frustrated because you are a bit too rough with me and at times you get carried away and this hurts me.

"

It's a letter an eight-year-old girl shouldn't have to write.

"You are going to hell," another child writes to her own father.

Others recall tear-soaked pillows from crying themselves to sleep, problems going to the toilet due to abuse and, most shockingly, a desire to "rather be dead".

These are the voices that become lost in Australia's broken, dysfunctional Family Law System, according to child protection lobby group Bravehearts.

The organisation has long been pushing for a royal commission into the systemic failures, but is now using a 200-page report, Abbey's Project, to back renewed calls for reform.

"It must be a child-first organisation," founder Hetty Johnston said in Brisbane on Tuesday.

"How it is failing, on a daily basis, to actually protect children is horrific."

The document provides chilling details of 15 cases where children have been left in harm's way by failings of the courts, police and child protection bodies.

Ms Johnston says the "sanitised" accounts are representative of 130 responses Bravehearts received after calling for case studies.

"These children are being deserted by a system that just doesn't know how to protect them."

One mother, whose son had disclosed sexual abuse at the hands of his father between the ages of five and seven, recalled being placed in the witness box for two days during a 2012 trial.

"I felt attacked, belittled and made to feel crazy," she recalled.

The judge and her estranged partner's solicitor were, in her words, misogynists.

In another case, police from the child protection unit concluded it was "highly likely" that a boy who claimed to have been drugged and raped was coached to make false allegations by his mother "as a means of securing custody of the children".

Parents described the system as abusive, untrustworthy, non-protective and brandishing "huge power to destroy children and families under total secrecy".

"The family law court has a lot to answer for," one said.

Ms Johnston said the "big monster" was so dysfunctional it could not be fixed with mere tinkering.

A royal commission, she said, was the only way.

"Suffice to say there are some individuals within the system who we have concerns about," Ms Johnston added.

Abbey's Project, named after a 17-year-old who took her own life after being made to stay with her abusive, convicted father, made 30 recommendations.

"We just really want today's politicians to prioritise children," Ms Johnston said.

* National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

© AAP 2016

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