ALRC InBrief | December 2016

Message from the President

To all ALRC friends and colleagues, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your generous support of our work this year, and for the contributions you have made to the ALRC’s inquiries. The ALRC is fortunate indeed to have so many engaged and committed colleagues who are prepared to participate in our work through consultations and submissions. Your interest and input lie at the heart of our inquiry work and we sincerely thank you for it. I also wanted to thank the many people who sit on Advisory Committees for our inquiries, for their invaluable input and support. I hope you all have a restful, and renewing break and wish you the very best for 2017. I look forward to meeting with many of you during our travels for the Elder Abuse and Indigenous incarceration inquiries. 

Inquiry update

Elder abuse – Discussion Paper released

The ALRC released a second consultation document for the Elder Abuse Inquiry—Elder Abuse (DP 83) —on 12 December 2016. The Discussion Paper includes 43 proposals for law reform. Key proposals have been made concerning powers of investigation for public advocates and public guardians; enduring powers of attorney and enduring guardianship; family agreements; banking; aged care; and social security. The ALRC is calling for submissions from organisations and individuals. Submissions are due to the ALRC by the 27 February 2017.

The DP has attracted strong media interest, on television, radio, and online. See ALRC in the media – 2016  >>

The ALRC will be conducting a further round of consultations in February in the lead-up to the closing date for submissions.

The ALRC’s final report is due to the Attorney-General at the end of May 2017.

Indigenous Incarceration – Consultation on draft TOR

On 6 December, the Government released a consultation draft terms of reference for a new inquiry into the incarceration rate of Indigenous Australians. The consultation draft has been released by the Attorney-General’s Department to ensure all interested persons and groups, in particular those from Indigenous communities, can have a full opportunity to provide their feedback on the terms of reference. The inquiry, announced in late October, will examine the factors leading to the overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in our prison system. Those wanting to help shape the terms of reference for this important inquiry can provide feedback to the Attorney-General’s Department until 13 January 2017. More information, including the consultation draft of terms of reference, is available at the Attorney General’s Department consultations page.

Reform round-up

Family Violence—A National Legal Response (ALRC Report 114)

In December, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General amendments to the Family Law Act that would improve the family law system’s response to family violence. Given the importance of these amendments, the Government has released an Exposure Draft of the amendments for public consultation. Submissions are due to AGD by 20 January 2017. Amendments pertaining to ALRC recommendations from ALRC Report 114 include the following.

Criminalising breaches of personal protection injunctions

The Family Law Act would be amended to make it a criminal offence to breach a personal protection injunction issued under the Act. Under the Family Law Act, the court can issue injunctions for the personal protection of a person or a child. However, contravention of an injunction is currently a private matter between the parties and can only be enforced if the aggrieved party (victim) brings a civil enforcement action in a family court. This new offence would remove the need for the victim to be a party to enforcement proceedings—actions taken in respect of criminal offences are brought by the state against the offender. However, civil enforcement action would remain available to the victim as well. This amendment would implement recommendation 17-4 of the ALRC Report 114.

Repeal obligation to perform marital services

The Family Law Act would be amended to implement recommendation 17-6 of ALRC Report 114, to repeal the now redundant provision in the Family Law Act that allows courts to make an order relieving a party to a marriage from an obligation to perform marital services or render conjugal rights. The continuing existence of this provision implies that these concepts are still valid in Australian law.

Part-time Commissioners

On 22 Nov 2016, the Attorney-General announced the reappointment of Part-time Commissioners Justice Perram and Justice Middleton for a further three years. Both have been providing valuable advice and guidance to the ALRC since their original appointments in 2012. We welcome the announcement and look forward to their ongoing involvement and contribution to ALRC inquiries.

Reconciliation Action Plan

The ALRC developed its first RAP in 2009. Since then, the ALRC has updated its RAP every two years and has reviewed and measured its performance against the RAP targets every year, reporting to our Minister and Reconciliation Australia annually.