ALRC InBrief | January 2018

The ALRC Brief covers general news from the Commission, including updates on current inquiries, implementation of past reports, job vacancies and the ALRC intern program. The ALRC Brief is emailed to subscribers three to four times a year.

A message from incoming ALRC President, the Hon. Justice S C Derrington

I am both honoured and privileged to take up the role of President of the Australian Law Reform Commission in this, its 43rd year. I do so acutely aware of the footsteps in which I follow and pay particular tribute to the tremendous work of my immediate predecessor, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, who led so many significant law reform inquiries during her tenure as President between 2009 and 2017.

Whilst there is work to be done immediately in relation to the two references currently with the Commission, there is also a broader imperative for the Commission. That imperative is to ensure that law reform retains its significance to the rule of law and the system of justice that operates within Australia.

I look forward to working with the small but dedicated team within the ALRC and with the wider legal profession on whom the Commission relies so heavily in order to perform its functions to the highest standards.

It is my fervent hope that, in the years to come, the Commission will have the opportunity to see a return to a model of law reform, as recently advocated by its inaugural President, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, “at once substantial, instrumental and more systematic”.

Inquiry update

New Inquiry – Funding Litigation Inquiry

On 11 December 2017, the then-Attorney-General of Australia, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, gave the ALRC Terms of Reference for an inquiry into class action proceedings and third party litigation funding.

The Funding Litigation Inquiry will be led by ALRC President, the Hon. Justice S C Derrington. Initial consultations will begin shortly.

The last time the ALRC was asked to look at class actions and litigation funding was in 1988 and the ALRC produced its report, Grouped Proceedings in the Federal Court. This new Inquiry is therefore a timely review of litigation funding.

See Terms of Reference >>

Review of the Family Law System

The Review is on track to release its initial consultation document – an Issues Paper – in March 2018. With the release of the Issues Paper, the ALRC will call for submissions, due by the end of April.

In the meantime, anyone who would like to share with us their recent experience of the Family Law System, outside of the formal submission process, is welcome to do so via the ALRC website. Any experiences shared in this way will be for the ALRC’s use only and will not be published.  However, all material received by the ALRC may be subject to Freedom of Information requests. If your story contains information about a court proceeding, including a proceeding under the Family Law Act 1975, you should carefully consider the terms of any order made by a court in that proceeding relating to the disclosure of information before you submit your story to the ALRC. For example, it is an offence under s 102PK of the Family Law Act 1975 to contravene a suppression order or a non-publication order made under s 102PE of the Family Law Act 1975. Please limit your response to 750 words. 

Tell us your story >>

Incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

The report for this Inquiry, Pathways to Justice–Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, was delivered to the Attorney-General on 22 December 2017. The Report is under embargo until it is tabled in Parliament. Under the ALRC Act, the Government must table the Report within 15 sitting days. As soon as it is tabled it will be made publically available on the ALRC website. We will notify people via the Inquiry enews as soon as this happens.

Commissioner Judge Matthew Myers, who led this Inquiry, has now returned to the Federal Circuit Court.

Reform round-up

Elder Abuse—A National Legal Response (ALRC Report 131)

The Elder Abuse Report included a suite of recommendations regarding the development of a National Plan to combat elder abuse. On 1 October 2017, then-Attorney-General Senator the Hon George Brandis announced initiatives that implement, or are consistent with, several elements of the National Plan envisaged by the ALRC. These include:

  • Funding for new research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies that would focus on the prevalence and nature of elder abuse in Australia. This implements ALRC Recommendation 3-5 that ‘There should be a national prevalence study of elder abuse to build the evidence base to inform policy responses’.
  • The establishment of an Elder Abuse working group, consisting of State and Territory Attorneys-General, to report to Ministers via the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council. (See Rec 3-2)
  • The establishment of a new national elder abuse peak body to ensure that vulnerable older Australians are better supported through having their issues addressed and represented in a more coordinated and comprehensive manner. The new peak body would support the foster collaboration and the sharing of information to facilitate learning and innovation, and provide policy expertise to governments. While the ALRC did not recommend a new national peak body as such, the stated goals of the new peak body, and the recommended ‘Plan’ are similar, for example: in establishing a national policy framework (See Rec 3-1 (a) and Chapter 3 more broadly).

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

Under a new National Domestic Violence Order Scheme (NDVOS), and any domestic violence orders issued from 25 November 2017 in any Australian state or territory can now be recognised and enforceable nationwide. This implements ALRC Rec 30-18 from its 2010 Family Violence Report, that:

A national register should be established. At a minimum, information on the register should:

  1. include interim, final and police-issued protection orders made under state and territory family violence legislation; child protection orders made under state and territory child protection legislation; and related orders and injunctions made under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth); and
  2. be available to federal, state and territory police, federal family courts, state and territory courts that hear matters related to family violence and child protection, and child protection agencies.

Intern program

Next week we welcome three new interns, who will be with us full time for three weeks: Marcus Dahl from ANU, and Thea Casey and Nicola Bird from Monash University.

The next ALRC intern intake is Semester 1 2018, for part-time placements between 12 March and 1 June (1 day a week). The closing date for applications is 5 February 2018.

Apply for a Semester 1 2018 internship >>