Many of the recommendations made by the ALRC were accepted by the then federal government in its Justice Statement issued on 18 May 1995.

The government announced that it would be implementing a National Women’s Justice Strategy to increase and improve women’s access to justice. The strategy would include:

  • a national network of women’s legal centres;
  • community legal education on issues relevant to women;
  • national access to toll-free telephone legal advice;
  • refocusing legal aid to increase legal aid in family law and civil law;
  • improved ways to address violence against women across the legal system and in family support services;
  • funding for test cases;
  • gender awareness programs for courts and tribunals;
  • law reform; and
  • research into the effects of violence in relationships on the access women have to mediation services and on the outcomes of mediation for women.

The federal government also announced it would amend sex discrimination, migration and family law legislation in response to recommendations made in the report, and that it would actively seek women’s perspectives in drafting the new Model Criminal Code. Changes in departmental administrative practices relating to immigration have occurred in response to recommendations on violence against women and immigration law.

In September 1995 the government announced that new or substantially upgraded specialist legal services for women would be operating in all states and territories by early 1996 following a significant increase in funding.

In February 1995, the Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly enacted the Domestic Violence Act 1995 (NI), which was consistent with ALRC recommendations.

The Sex Discrimination Amendment Act 1995 (Cth) was enacted in December 1995. The Act implemented some of the changes to the Sex Discrimination Act recommended by the ALRC, although the Act was actually designed to implement recommendations of the 1992 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs report Half Way to Equal.

The ALRC’s recommendations in relation to violence against women and family law influenced consideration of the Family Law Reform Act 1995 (Cth).

Continuing issues

Discrepancies remain in policy and procedure between Australian state and territory laws on sexual assault and rape, which affect women’s access to justice.

Law reform issues pertaining to violence against women including ‘battered woman syndrome’ continue to be discussed. Battered woman syndrome was considered by the High Court for the first time in December 1998 in Osland v The Queen. It was also considered by the Model Criminal Code Officers’ Committee in its 1998 discussion paper on fatal offences against the person.