On 9 May 2017 the Turnbull Government announced its intention to direct the ALRC to conduct the first comprehensive review into the family law system since the commencement of the Family Law Act in 1976, with a view to making necessary reforms to ensure the family law system meets the contemporary needs of families and effectively addresses family violence and child abuse.
The ALRC received the Terms of Reference on 27 September 2017.
Review of the Family Law System - Issues Paper (IP 48) was released on 14 March 2018. This Issues Paper is the first consultation document in the Inquiry. It introduces the issues covered by the Terms of Reference and asks questions to assist in the development of reform responses through submissions from stakeholders. The submissions and further consultation rounds will inform the next stages of the process: a Discussion Paper, planned for release on 2 October 2018; and the Final Report in March 2019.
The ALRC received over 400 submissions in response to its Issues Paper released in March 2018. Public submissions are published online and can be viewed on the ALRC website.
On 29 June 2018, Dr Andrew Bickerdike was appointed as a part-time commissioner of the ALRC. Read media release.
On 27 July 2018, Professor Helen Rhoades presented at the 2018 AIFS Conference. Read speech.
On 23 August 2018, the WA Commissioner for Children and Young People, Colin Pettit, said that he wanted to ensure that the views of WA children and young people were included in the ALRC review of the family law system. Young people aged 12-21 with experience of the Family Court who are comfortable in sharing the views are encouraged to provide confidential feedback to the Commissioner. Read media release.
Review of the Family Law System: Discussion Paper (DP 86) was released on 2 October 2018, putting forward 124 proposed changes to the family law system. Key proposals include supporting increased participation by children in the family law system; and the establishment of the Family Law Commission to oversee the operation of the family law system and provide accreditation to family law practitioners.
On 10 April 2019, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report, Family Law for the Future: An Inquiry into the Family Law System, was tabled in Parliament by the Attorney-General, the Hon Christian Porter MP.
The ALRC has made 60 recommendations for reform.
The ALRC recommends that the resolution of family law disputes be returned to the states and territories and that the federal family courts eventually be abolished. Under the current system, children fall through the gaps between the family law courts, the child protection systems and the state and territory responses to family violence. This can be remedied only by having a single court focused on the best interests of the child that is able to resolve all family law, child protection and family violence issues together.
More broadly, the ALRC’s recommendations will ensure that the law provides a framework that assists families who are experiencing relationship breakdown to make arrangements for their children, property, and financial affairs.
Family Law for the Future: An Inquiry into the Family Law System (ALRC Report 135) and the Summary Report (ALRC 135 Summary) are available for viewing or free download at https://www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries/family-law-system.