Commissioned research

Into the war zone: disclosure and disbelief in the Family Court

  • Justice
  • Victims & survivors
Project Length
18 months
Project Budget
(funded by National Centre)
Funding Stream
Quality Improvement

Project Lead

Tunya Petridis, Petridis MacSween Consulting

Dr Morag MacSween, Petridis MacSween Consulting

Associate Professor Jodi Death, School of Justice, Queensland University of Technology

Background and Aim

This project addresses the framing of children as unreliable witnesses to their own experience in the Family Court where there are simultaneous allegations of child sexual abuse and parental alienation. Further, this project will investigate the reversal of custody in these circumstances, and the extent to which the direct experience and meaning-making of child victims and survivors is captured and considered. This project will examine how adults make sense of their experience as children in the Family Court, what evidential weight children’s disclosures and choices should have on Family Court decision-making, and what Court stakeholders need to know about simultaneous allegations of child sexual abuse and parental alienation.


This project will employ a qualitative co-design methodology, using semi-structured, trauma-informed interviews with 10-12 adult victims and survivors, followed by thematic analysis. Literature reviews will summarise critical bodies of knowledge, including regarding parental alienation, disclosure, perpetrator behaviours and children as agentic subjects. The Advisory Group guiding this project will include greater than half victim and survivor membership.


This project will advocate for the direct voice of victims and survivors and contemporary research carrying appropriate weight in Court decisions. We will treat participants as credible witnesses to their own experience and as expert commentators. We will challenge the relevance of parental alienation where there has been child sexual abuse.

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