A fathers' rights group whose leader says the Family Court encourages women to make up domestic violence claims has been among the first groups to be invited to make a submission to the Family Law system inquiry.
The Australian Brotherhood of Fathers told its followers on Facebook on October 7 it had been contacted by the committee's secretariat about giving evidence, and a formal invitation to make a submission arrived on Monday.
The group's founder Leith Erikson has told The Canberra Times the group had been advocating for reform of the family law system for years, and had recently met with One Nation and Labor MPs in Canberra to lobby for change.
"We would like to see the family law system focus more on the health of families," Mr Erikson said.
"It's quite adversarial at the moment."
Based in Queensland, the group runs a support line, attends the Family Court to support fathers attending, and lobbies for changes including around access to children and the cost involved in going through the court system.
"When people are dealing with these issues, if they don't have support, you see it enables bad behaviour."
"It almost enables more family violence."
The inquiry into the family law system was agreed to by the government after lobbying by One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, who has also said that women lie about domestic violence in order to stop the other parent from seeing their children.
Mr Erikson agrees with Senator Hanson and said he sees domestic violence claims made to limit a father's access to children "on a daily basis".
"You can't deny it's happening, it's prolific almost."
Mr Erikson said his group had a zero tolerance policy for all violence and he believed sentences for domestic violence should be more harsh.
It's a shame that the atmosphere is now so threatening it's likely to have the effect of excluding women who have been victims of domestic violence because it doesn't feel like a safe space.Women's Legal Services NSW Helen Campbell
Women's legal advocates are concerned about the effects the inquiry will have on domestic violence and misinformation about the Family Court system.
"It's fundamentally disrespectful to women and flies in the face of facts," executive officer at Women's Legal Services NSW Helen Campbell said of claims that domestic violence allegations are often falsified.
Ms Campbell said since the parliamentary inquiry had been announced comments on the Facebook page for her organisation had taken a turn for the worse.
"We've suffered a great deal of abuse on Facebook," Ms Campbell said.
"There's some groups that are so determined in their point of view, to be abusive."
Ms Campbell said she has been monitoring the page at all hours to delete comments, especially due to legal requirements that ban identifying people involved in Family Court matters.
"It's a shame that the atmosphere is now so threatening it's likely to have the effect of excluding women who have been victims of domestic violence because it doesn't feel like a safe space," Ms Campbell said.
Director of Legal Services and Policy and Women's Legal Services Victoria Helen Matthews agreed the inquiry had changed the atmosphere around such claims.
"I think from the get go, when the Prime Minister announced this inquiry he was, whether it was his intention or not, he was giving legitimacy to these claims. Not saying they were true, but there's reason to express their concerns," said Ms Matthews.
"That was unfortunate and irresponsible."
Ms Matthews said Women's Legal Services Australia had written to the committee members, suggesting measures to make sure victims of domestic violence would feel safe in giving evidence to the inquiry.
Both Ms Matthews and Ms Campbell did not say groups like the Australian Brotherhood of Fathers shouldn't be able to give evidence to the inquiry.
Mr Erikson said he didn't agree that the inclusion of groups like his would intimidate victims of domestic violence.
"It's a cop out to say people would be scared of giving evidence because we're there," he said.
According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, only about 3 per cent of separated parents use courts as the main pathway to parenting arrangements, and these are families predominantly affected by family violence, child safety concerns and other complex issues.
According to the Institute it is most common for children to spend the majority of their time with their mother, and see their father regularly, through both court and non-court ordered arrangements.
Just 3 per cent of court orders prohibit contact with one parent.
Any member of the parliamentary committee can suggest groups or individuals be invited to make submissions or give evidence. A spokesman for Senator Hanson wouldn't say if she had asked that Australian Brotherhood of Fathers be invited.
"Senator Hanson put out a broad call out to any interested group and the general public, via the media and social media, to lodge submissions to the inquiry. Those who give evidence at hearings will be determined after the submissions process. Senator Hanson wants this to be the people's inquiry," he said.
Committee chair Kevin Andrews said it was routine practice to invite individuals, groups, and organisations to make submissions.
"An invitation to submit, however, does not preclude anyone from making a submission," he said.