“Parental alienation” and family courts: A conversation on research and practice Event as iCalendar

20 March 2018

10 - 11:30am

Venue: Room 732-201

Location: Tāmaki Campus, 261 Morrin Road, St Johns,

Host: New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse

Cost: Free

Website: Register on Eventbrite


The New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse (NZFVC) is New Zealand’s national centre for collating and disseminating information on domestic and family violence. Based at the University of Auckland, the Clearinghouse seeks to increase the effectiveness of work to eliminate family violence by providing access to the evidence and knowledge base in the field.

It aims to support and inform the links between family violence work in research, policy and practice. The information available through the Clearinghouse supports work in all these areas. Practitioners can access up-to-date research on a particular topic when designing, reviewing or evaluating programmes, doing presentations, writing funding applications, writing submissions and doing media work. The Clearinghouse responds to requests for information to support the work of policy-makers, policy analysts and advocates from government agencies and non-government organisations. Academics are able to follow new research and developments across the sector and direct students to the Clearinghouse to support their learning. 


Professor Elizabeth Sheehy from the University of Ottawa is a Distinguished Visitor at the University of Auckland. She is an international expert on violence against women and women’s use of violence and the author of the award-winning book Defending Battered Women on Trial: Lessons from the Transcripts. In 2017 she received the Persons Award from the Governor General of Canada and, in 2018, the Order of Ontario from the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario for her advocacy for women’s equality in the criminal justice context over the course of her long and distinguished career.

Professor Sheehy will share her research results from examining how “parental alienation” is claimed and adjudicated in family court cases across Canada 2008-2017. She will focus on how allegations of family violence and parental alienation intersect and th implications for women escaping male violence.

Ruth Herbert is well known for her work in trying to improve New Zealand's system response to violence against women and children. She has given many presentations and media interviews and researched and written extensively about the issue. She has a Master of Public Policy (dist.) and has worked both in formal roles and as an independent advocate and activist in the sector. Ruth has been the Family Violence Director at the Ministry of Social Development, the Executive Director of the independent Glenn Inquiry and a member of the independent Ministerial Review Panel assessing ACC’s sensitive claims clinical pathway.

Ruth is a co-founder of the Backbone Collective which was launched in 2017 to enable women who have experienced violence and abuse to have their voices heard. Ruth will share what women have told the Backbone Collective about how “parental alienation” is being used against protective mothers in the New Zealand Family Court. 

Catriona MacLennan is a barrister, journalist and researcher. She worked in the Press Gallery for six years as a political reporter and practised law in South Auckland for 14 years. Catriona worked extensively in family and domestic violence and has for the past 20 years advocated publicly and politically for action to eliminate domestic and sexual violence. Catriona helped set up Ngā Ture Kaitiaki ki Waikato Community Law Centre and was the Project Director for Ngā Tāngata Microfinance Trust. She is the founder of Wheels for Women, a project to provide cars to domestic violence survivors.

Catriona will examine recent New Zealand High and Family Court cases referring to “parental alienation.” She will also speak about how the use of “parental alienation” is undermining attempts to tackle this country’s domestic violence epidemic.

Chair: Professor Julia Tolmie, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland


  • Visitor parking available on campus. 
  • Close to Glen Innes Train station. See Auckland Transport for public transport information. 
  • Download Tāmaki Campus map
  • This is an accessible venue. Please let us know if you have any accessibility requirements.


This is a free event but registration is necessary. Click here to register. For more information, visit the New Zealand family Violence Clearinghouse website.