31.68 One issue that emerged during the course of the Inquiry was whether there was a role for a national body charged with developing policy, promoting best practice and providing education and support to those working in the family violence area. The Commissions note a number of different options have been raised in previous reports, and in submissions to this Inquiry.
National Centre of Excellence
31.69 The National Council advocated the establishment of a National Centre of Excellence for the Prevention of Violence against Women. This would, among other things, provide a national resource for the development of policy and benchmarks, and develop and promote ‘gold-standard’ practice to reduce violence against women and their children across Australia. Further, there should be a specific funding stream to address prevention education policy, including training and accreditation of staff and programs.
Expert panel and reference group
31.70 A key recommendation by the Family Law Council in its 2009 advice to the Commonwealth Attorney-General concerned the development of a ‘common knowledge base’ by an expert panel and reference group for those working in the family law system. The reference group would include representatives of a diverse range of organisations and be involved in reviewing Australian and international research findings—to ensure that the common knowledge base is evidence based and current—and advising the Government on its research agenda in the area of family violence. It recommended that professional and peak bodies should use the common knowledge base to guide good practice and underpin training programs and professional development, and that family pathways networks are aware of and disseminate information from the family violence common knowledge base.
31.71 The Family Law Council also recommended that the expert panel and reference group ‘endorse the content of education and training on family violence for those involved in the system’, including family dispute resolution practitioners, lawyers, independent children’s lawyers, family consultants, and experts who provide evidence to courts. It recommended that all key players should undertake relevant ongoing training at least annually. The education and training would be conducted by, or performed under the auspices of, bodies including the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, state law societies and foundations, the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, National Legal Aid and the federal family courts. The Family Law Council also recommended the revision and periodic updating of the Best Practice Guidelines for Lawyers Doing Family Law Work.
National Judicial Institute for Family Violence and Sexual Assault
31.72 A number of submissions to the Inquiry asked the Commissions to consider the merits of establishing a National Judicial Institute for Family Violence and Sexual Assault. The Magistrates’ Court and the Children’s Court of Victoria, for example, envisaged that
such a body would be a central repository of best practice, current research and information to support judicial officers, across jurisdictions, to undertake their work in family violence family law and sexual assault. It could develop professional development programs for judicial officers to ensure more consistent application of research findings.
31.73 Further, the Courts supported the Institute playing a role in transferring specialised knowledge and expertise in dealing with family violence and sexual assault across federal, state and territory jurisdictions, and establishing and maintaining national networks of judicial officers and staff specialising in family violence or family law.
31.74 Similarly, the Victorian government submitted that
support for such a body was one of the key recommendations from the National Family Violence conference hosted by the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration in October 2009 … such an Institute could support best practice across federal and state jurisdictions. It could also ensure a coordinated approach to best practice tools that would have application across jurisdictions (eg model benchbook).
31.75 The Victorian government also noted that the Institute could ‘promote judicial excellence through procedural reform, and highlight the critical role that judicial officers play in the overall justice response to family violence and sexual assault’.
31.76 The Commissions support the strategy of developing a comprehensive professional development framework for those working in family violence, as recommended in the Time for Action report. The Commissions also support the principle of a national body charged with developing policy, promoting best practice and providing education and support to those working the family violence area.
31.77 The Commissions make no specific recommendations as to whether a new body should be established in the form of a National Centre of Excellence (as proposed in the Time for Action report), or an expert panel and reference group (as recommended by the Family Law Council), or a National Judicial Institute for Family Violence and Sexual Assault (as suggested by the Victorian Government and the Magistrates’ and Children’s Court of Victoria). The Commissions note that while there is substantial merit in each of these proposed bodies, further work and consultation may be required to establish the most effective and efficient approach to national family violence policy development and education.
 National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, Time for Action: The National Council’s Plan for Australia to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, 2009–2021 (2009), 41.
 Ibid, 68.
 Family Law Council, Improving Responses to Family Violence in the Family Law System: An Advice on the Intersection of Family Violence and Family Law Issues (2009), Recs 6.1–6.7.
 Ibid, Recs 6.3–6.4.
 Ibid, Rec 6.7.
 Ibid, Rec 6.9.
 Ibid, 40.
 Ibid, [6.8].
 Magistrates’ Court and the Children’s Court of Victoria, Submission FV 220, 1 July 2010; Domestic Violence Victoria, Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria, Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, Victorian Women with Disabilities Network, Submission FV 146, 24 June 2010; Victorian Government, Submission FV 120, 15 June 2010.
 Magistrates’ Court and the Children’s Court of Victoria, Submission FV 220, 1 July 2010.
 Victorian Government, Submission FV 120, 15 June 2010.