Multiculturalism and the law

During the course of the inquiry, several consultation papers were released:

  • An issues paper—Multiculturalism and the Law (ALRC IP 9) in 1990; and
  • Three discussion papers in 1991—Multiculturalism: Family Law (ALRC DP 46); Multiculturalism: Criminal Law (ALRC DP 48); and Multiculturalism: Consumer Contracts (ALRC DP 49).

The final report (ALRC Report 57) examined the principles underlying Australian family law, criminal law and contract law and the ways disputes about them are resolved, to see if they take enough account of the cultural diversity of Australian society. The report reviewed the extent to which the law recognises, accommodates, respects and protects the rights and diversity of cultures. The report concluded that there needed to be reform of the substantive law to make the legal system more accessible to everyone.

Key recommendations

  • Cultural background should be taken into account in all stages of the criminal process from decisions to prosecute, to decisions about sentence.
  • The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) should be amended to ensure that in assessing the best interests of the child the court takes adequate notice of the cultural links a child may have.
  • Federal departments should develop education and information programs taking into account principles of access and equity.
  • Amendments to the draft Credit Bill were recommended to ensure enhanced protection for consumers from non-English speaking backgrounds.
  • A taskforce should establish guidelines which would ensure greater protection concerning insurance contracts for people from non-English speaking backgrounds.