The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) today released the first in a series of four Issues Papers for its current Inquiry into Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws. In November 2010, the ALRC (with the NSW Law Reform Commission) completed its first inquiry into family violence with the release of the report, Family Violence: A National Legal Response (ALRC Report 114, 2010). That report contained 187 recommendations for reform focused on improving the interaction in practice of state and territory family violence and child protection laws with the Family Law Act and relevant criminal laws; and in relation to inconsistent interpretation of laws in cases of sexual assault in the family violence context.
This second inquiry concentrates on the treatment of family violence in specific areas of Commonwealth law—including child support and family assistance law, immigration law, employment law, social security law, superannuation law and privacy law.
ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher said, “Rather than producing one overarching Issues Paper, as is the usual practice in ALRC inquiries, we have chosen to produce discrete Issues Papers on the specific subject areas that we are examining, making the issues more immediately accessible to those people who are most deeply involved in each particular area of law. We look forward to receiving their responses to the issues raised.”
In the first of the Issues Paper,Family Violence—Employment and Superannuation (IP 36), the ALRC is asking: how can job search assistance provided through Job Services Australia be improved for victims of family violence; should the National Employment Standards, enterprise agreements or modern awards provide for the granting of family violence leave or other measures to assist victims of family violence; should family violence be better recognised as an occupational health and safety problem, where it affects the workplace; and how can superannuation law provide better protection to victims of family violence who may be coerced into transferring superannuation benefits or want early access to funds?
Family Violence—Immigration (IP 37) considers a number of family violence issues with respect to migrants and refugees—including how migration law can better ensure that victims of family violence are not unduly denied access to the family violence exception in the Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth); and whether the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) should be amended to provide for ‘complementary protection’ to victims of family violence whose claims do not fall under the Refugees Convention, but who are in need of international protection.
Family Violence—Social Security (IP 38) raises issues such as how information about family violence is identified and collected by Centrelink; difficulties for victims of family violence in complying with various activity, participation and administrative requirements attached to certain social security payments; and the impact of income management on Indigenous people experiencing family violence.
The final Issues Paper to be released, Family Violence—Child Support and Family Assistance (IP 39), includes discussion of child support issues, such as screening for family violence by the Child Support Agency, exemptions from applying for child support for victims of family violence, and collection of child support. Family assistance issues considered include the Family Tax Benefit and family violence, and the Special Child Care Benefit.
The first Issues Paper, Family Violence—Employment and Superannuation (IP 36), is available now to view or download from the ALRC’s website. Submissions addressing the questions in each Issues Papers may be made in writing, by email or using the ALRC’s online submission form. Submissions made using the online submission form are preferred. The ALRC is also conducting an online discussion blog around the Issues Papers and encourages people to participate at http://alrc.govspace.gov.au/
To subscribe to the Commonwealth Family Violence e-Newsletter, please register at the ALRC’s website.
Closing date for submissions is six weeks after the release of each Issues Paper. For IP 36 this is 6 April 2011.
A Discussion Paper will be released in mid-2011 that will seek community feedback on the ALRC’s proposals for reform, with a Final Report due to be presented to the Attorney-General on 30 November 2011.