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Family law must be reformed in wake of Sydney man's callous killing of his teen son and daughter — advocate

Family law must be reformed to place safety at the centre of decision-making, a peak body says after a coroner's findings into two teenagers' domestic violence executions.

Olga Edwards and her children, Jack and Jennifer. Source: Supplied

NSW State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan found reports of domestic violence made against Sydney father John Edwards were minimised in the family court 18 months before he shot dead his children in July 2018.

The murders of Jack and Jennifer Edwards, aged 15 and 13, also sparked questions about how Edwards obtained licences to shoot and buy guns despite protracted, acrimonious family law proceedings.

Ms O'Sullivan called for the creation of a system that meant domestic violence issues raised in the family court are automatically shared with NSW police and the state's gun registry.

But the chief executive of Women's Legal Service Queensland has urged further reform of family law, saying the inquest findings provide "clear lessons" for the federal government on preventing family violence.

The Edwards case exemplifies how safety is still a "side consideration" in the family law system, which needed to better identify domestic violence risks, Angela Lynch said.

"We need to think outside the box," she said.

"Professionals and specialists in family law need to devise new strategies and build the safest possible system for victims of violence, even if this impinges on the freedoms of perpetrators."

Among the coroner's 24 recommendations was a call for a NSW legal body to investigate the conduct of the lawyer tasked to advocate for Jack and Jennifer in the family court.

That lawyer had promoted orders in December 2016 that sought to bring the children into contact with John, despite allegations that he was abusive to the children and had allegedly stalked another daughter.

The coroner also recommended making it far harder for domestic violence perpetrators to access guns lawfully.

One proposed law change would add personal violence and domestic violence offences to crimes that automatically disqualify gun permit applicants.

Another change would abolish a shooting permit that is issued on the spot at gun clubs without any registry oversight.

Enacting Ms O'Sullivan's recommendations would also force NSW police to automatically suspend gun permits in the event of domestic violence allegations being aired in the federal court.