22. Confidentiality and Admissibility

Recommendation 22–1 Sections 10D(4)(b) and 10H(4)(b) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) should be amended to permit family counsellors and family dispute resolution practitioners to disclose communications made during family counselling or family dispute resolution, where they reasonably believe that disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to a person’s life, health or safety.

Recommendation 22–2 The Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department, in consultation with family dispute resolution practitioners and family counsellors, should develop material to guide family dispute resolution practitioners and family counsellors in determining the seriousness of a threat to an individual’s life, health or safety, and identifying when a disclosure may be made without consent. Such guidance should also encourage family dispute resolution practitioners and family counsellors to address the potential impact of disclosure on the immediate safety of those to whom the information relates, and for that purpose:

(a) refer those at risk to appropriate support services; and

(b) develop a safety plan, where appropriate, in conjunction with them.

Recommendation 22–3 Bodies responsible for the education and training of family dispute resolution practitioners and family counsellors should develop programs to ensure that provisions in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and in state and territory child protection legislation regulating disclosure of information relating to actual or potential abuse, harm or ill-treatment of children are understood and appropriately acted on.

Recommendation 22–4 Sections 10E and 10J of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), which regulate the admissibility of family dispute resolution and family counselling communications, should be amended to state expressly that the application of these provisions extends to state and territory courts not exercising family law jurisdiction.

Recommendation 22–5 The Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department should coordinate the collaborative development of education and training —including cross-disciplinary training—for family courts’ registry staff, family consultants, judicial officers and lawyers who practise family law, about the need for screening and risk assessment where a certificate has been issued under s 60I of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) indicating a matter is inappropriate for family dispute resolution.