Launch of the Family Violence Report

Speech by ALRC President, Professor Rosalind Croucher, at the launch of the Final Report for the Family Violence Inquiry

Introduction and welcome

  • Attorney-General Robert McClelland
  • Attorney-General John Hatzistergos
  • Chairman, NSWLRC, the Hon James Wood
  • NSWLRC Commissioner, Professor Emerita Hilary Astor
  • Magistrate Anne Goldsbrough (ALRC part-time Commissioner, Family Violence inquiry),
  • His Honour Judge Kevin O’Connor, (NSWLRC part-time Commissioner)
  • The Hon Justice Arthur Emmett (newly appointed part-time Commissioner, for the Discovery
  • Members of the ALRC Indigenous Advisory Committee, Neva Collings and Daryl French
  • Dr Rae Kaspiew, Australian Institute of Family Studies
  • ALRC and NSWLRC colleagues,
  • friends.

Welcome to the Australian Law Reform Commission.

This is an extremely auspicious occasion—to have both the Commonwealth and NSW State Attorney-Generals here with us today. It is a recognition of commitment to a plan of action at the highest level to respond to violence in families.

In the presence of such eminent members of our legal community, the first law officers of this state and the Commonwealth, it is also incumbent on me to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, who are the originators of the customary laws and the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet—and I pay my respects to their elders, both past and present, acknowledging the vital contribution that Indigenous people and cultures have made, and still make, to the nation that we share.  I would also like to acknowledge Indigneous guests attending today.

And now to the occasion of today–

The Family Violence inquiry occupied fully—and intensely—two institutional law reform bodies, for over a year.  And I must say that we were a good choice!

The establishment of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission in the 1960s, following the Law Commission of England and Wales, forms part of a proud history of law reform through established bodies that began in England in the 1830s, generated by the writings of Jeremy Bentham.

The New South Wales Law Reform Commission was the first of the Australian institutional law reform bodies. The Hon Justice Michael Kirby—the ALRC’s first Chairman—considered that ‘It would be impossible to overestimate the impact of the establishment of the law commissions upon the common law world’.[1] In 1975 the Commonwealth government followed suit in the establishment of the Australian Law Reform Commission.

To you, Attorneys-General, may I say that you are the inheritors of this tradition —and, with it, the responsibility for supporting the true value, and long-term contribution of institutional law reform bodies. You should also be proud of your contribution, through the projects initiated by you both, to the impact on the common law world imagined by the foundation Chairman of the ALRC.  

That you gave us this extraordinarily challenging brief at a time of such intense concern about the impact, both in the short and long term, of violence in families, is both a mark of your commitment, both personally and from the perspective of your governments, to providing a response; and a testimony to your appreciation of the impact of institutional law reform commissions to enduring law reform.

As the President of the ALRC may I congratulate you in both respects.

The expectations of all of us in this inquiry have been huge. The brief, as one to law reform bodies, necessarily reflects our functions, and, on our own, we cannot possibly meet the expectations of the all those in the Australian community who have been victims of family violence. Such expectations of each of you, Attorneys-General, and of us, is captured in this simple plea—one of many submissions received in the course of this inquiry:

Dear Government people,

We women, we mothers, we look at you for the solutions and answers…

On this note, may I invite Attorney-General McClelland, to lead the launch.

[Both Attorneys then spoke, after which the report was officially launched. Other speeches were made by the Hon James Wood, Chairman NSWLRC and Professor Hilary Astor, NSWLRC Commissioner.]


In an inquiry such as this there are many people to thank.

First, I must single out wonderful work of the team:

  • the legal officers of the ALRC and NSWLRC, led in teams by Senior Legal Officers Isabella Cosenza, Carolyn Adams and Bruce Alston—Isabella from the very start, Carolyn and Bruce coming on board later.
  • the production team, under the leadership of ALRC Executive Director Sabina Wynn, with Tina O’Brien once again typesetting everything as well as providing key support as Project Assistant.
  • NSWLRC Commissioner Hilary Astor (I have enjoyed our double act!)
  • Part-time Commissioner Magistrate Anne Goldsbrough who threw herself into the demands of this inquiry around all of the other responsibilities in her life.

Secondly, a huge vote of thanks to all those with whom we consulted, all over the country; and to those who put in submissions. The depth of engagement reflected in this process of consultation is the hallmark of best practice law reform and it lends enormous integrity to the recommendations for reform and the ability of governments to implement them.

Everyone here today has played a part.

Thank you Attorneys-General

Thank you all.

[1]              MD Kirby, ‘Reforming the Law’, Law-making in Australia, A E-S Tay and E Kamenka (eds) (1980), 39, 44.