The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) and the NSW Law Reform Commission (NSWLRC) today released the much anticipated Consultation Paper for the joint Inquiry into family violence laws—Family Violence: Improving Legal Frameworks (Consultation Paper 1).
ALRC President, Professor Rosalind Croucher said that over 60 individuals and organisations from around Australia working in the areas of family violence, sexual assault and child protection had already been consulted to inform the thinking behind the Consultation Paper.
“This Inquiry will be one of the largest and most significant in the ALRC’s recent history. The Inquiry’s Terms of Reference have asked the Commissions to focus on laws and legal processes and to consider what improvements could be made to protect women and children from family violence. Building on the work of the Family Law Council, Professor Richard Chisholm and the Australian Institute of Family Studies Evaluation of the 2006 family law reforms, this Inquiry looks at the interrelationship in practice of at least nine sets of criminal laws, eight sets of child protection laws, eight sets of family violence laws and the Family Law Act, as well as evidence laws, sentencing laws and a range of other legal processes.”
ALRC Part-time Commissioner for this Inquiry, Magistrate Anne Goldsbrough, stated, “This is a critical opportunity for national reform, and for those working in and around the justice system, to ensure the Commissions hear which of the federal and state laws do, or do not, work in practice to protect all victims of family violence—whether child or adult.”
Commissioner Professor Hilary Astor from the NSWLRC stated:
“Families in crisis often have intersecting problems involving family violence, sexual assault and child protection matters. They are presently faced with a complex maze of courts, legal processes and services which often don’t relate well to each other. At the moment, it is far too easy for people to fall through the cracks, for them to leave the process disillusioned, or for outcomes not to deliver maximum safety for families in crisis. The Consultation Paper asks people to respond to questions and proposals, and to contribute their own ideas, for improving law and practice so that our systems for dealing with all forms of family violence are approachable, effective and easy to navigate.”
The Commissions have also released a Consultation Paper Summary to assist people who want to make a submission. This Summary and the Consultation Paper are now available on CD ROM and to view and download from the ALRC’s website. Hard copy versions will be available by mid May.
Professor Croucher stated:
“The National Plan for Action, the impetus for this current Inquiry, highlighted that 350,000 women experience physical violence and 125,000 women experience sexual violence each year in Australia. As well as the devastating human cost, this violence comes at an enormous economic cost, with research showing that, each year, violence against women costs the nation $13.6 billion. The importance of what we are trying to achieve—a more integrated, seamless and accessible system of justice that will help people dealing with family violence and sexual assault, to have their voices heard— makes it imperative that we get our proposals for reform right. Maximum stakeholder input is critical at this stage.”
Hard copy submissions addressing the questions and proposals in the Consultation Paper can be posted, faxed or emailed to the ALRC. Online submissions are encouraged. Information about how to make an online submission is available at http://submissions.www.alrc.gov.au. The ALRC is also conducting an online discussion blog around the Consultation Paper and encourages people to participate at https://www.alrc.gov.au/blog/fvi.
Closing date for submissions is 4 June. Late submissions may not be able to be considered. The Commissions will submit their final Report to the Cth and NSW Attorneys-General on 31 July 2010.