The Family Court hears many cases in which one parent seeks for their child to be immunised in the traditional manner and the other opposes this, perhaps seeking another form of vaccination or none altogether.
Many people have concerns regarding the potential side-effects of immunisation, linking it to other physical and mental illnesses.
It is also important to note that although two people may have the same stance on vaccination during their marriage, one may later change their view after separation.
For all orders concerning children, the Family Court centres their decision on the child’s best interests. Each case is considered individually.
“From what we know from case law, the Court bases favours expert medical advice the vast majority of the time,” says Hayder Shkara, principal of Sydney-based firm Justice Family Lawyers.
The court does not rely on general knowledge about arguments for and against immunisation. Each party must present evidence regarding the benefits or disadvantages of immunisation.
“Vaccination is a major decision that affects the child in the long term, so in many cases the Court’s response is to make an order on parental responsibility,” explains Mr Shkara.
Usually, the Court presumes equal parental responsibility. However, a judge may make an order for sole parental responsibility, either for all issues, for medical issues, or specifically for the question of immunisation.
The Australian Government’s aspirational target for immunisation levels is 95 per cent. This is the rate at which herd immunity protects the remaining unvaccinated 5 per cent.
Immunisation levels lower than this target increase the risk of children contracting serious diseases. The World Health Organisation labels vaccine hesitancy as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019.
For five-year-old children, Australia’s national immunisation coverage rate is currently 94.67 per cent.