Chief Justice vows change to 'traumatic' court process for transgender children

Updated July 05, 2016 23:33:16

The Chief Justice of the Family Court says she will change the way transgender children access hormone treatment, saying the current process is difficult and stressful.

Key points:

  • Family Court Chief Justice wants court process simplified to reduce stress
  • Families say process is traumatic, expensive and creates delays
  • Comments come as major hospital reports spike in number of children wanting to transition

For transgender children to access irreversible hormone treatment, effectively estrogen or testosterone, they must get approval from a Family Court judge.

Australia is the only country in the world with that requirement, which can cost families tens of thousands of dollars and take up to 10 months for a hearing.

The court approval is in addition to expert medical approval.

Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the ABC the system was not working as intended.

"I accept it is difficult and stressful and we need to try and find some more simple solution," Chief Justice Bryant said.

"I've asked the [Attorney General's] Department if we could organise a roundtable involving the major hospitals ... and just see if we can sort out a simpler and consistent method of dealing with these matters.

"I would ultimately envisage an application that could be made relatively simply by consent."

Two years ago, the Chief Justice told Four Corners she was hopeful a transgender child would challenge the process in the High Court, creating a new precedent but that has not happened.

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Hospital sees huge jump in kids wanting to transition

The announcement comes as hospitals are seeing a spike in the number of children seeking to transition.

The Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) gender clinic in Melbourne is expecting to receive at least 250 referrals this year, a huge jump from just dozens three years ago.

Clinic head Michelle Telfer puts it down to increasing social acceptance.

She said the court process could delay medical treatment which has had devastating effects.

"We see kids very distressed, we see kids self-harming and we see kids trying to take their lives," Dr Telfer said.

Latrobe University's family law expert Fiona Kelly interviewed 10 families who have been, or will soon go through the court process.

"It was a universal message: that the court experience was traumatic for them and their children, that it was expensive, created delays for treatment and it caused a huge emotional toll," Dr Kelly said.

Chief Justice Bryant said expert doctors, the Attorney General's Department and potentially parents of transgender children could be part of the roundtable.

"You feel enormously for the children going through these changes, it's incredible," Chief Justice Bryant said.

The Chief Justice of the Family Court backs moves to change the way transgender children access horm Video: The Chief Justice of the Family Court backs moves to change the way transgender children access horm (Lateline)

Topics: sexuality, community-and-society, law-crime-and-justice, australia

First posted July 05, 2016 17:17:37