In March 2017, a Committee of the Australian Parliament was directed to inquire into how Australia’s Federal Family Law System can better support and protect people affected by family violence. It published its report and recommendations and “advocated for an accessible, equitable and responsive Family Law System which better prioritises the safety of families.”
In May 2018 legislation was first touted for a merger of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia as a solution to some of the problems. The court merger bills failed to win support of the Senate and consequently did not become law.
In April 2019, the Australian Law Reform Commission released its final report into the Family Law System. It was the first comprehensive review of the Family Law System since the Family Law Act commenced in 1976 and it made some controversial recommendations. It is the subject of continuing discussion, comment and articles amongst our team of family lawyers. Its significance may however be under a cloud after the announcement in late September 2019 that a Joint Parliamentary Committee of both the House and the Senate is to conduct yet another wide-ranging inquiry into the Family Law System.
Whilst many lawyers have welcomed the inquiry as an opportunity for another considered and holistic approach to reforms, it is hoped that committee members will conduct themselves free from bias and pre-determined outcomes, and act impartially and with vision. Compromises and concessions to placate all pressure groups risks leaving the community with a Family Law System that resembles a camel, when its goal is a horse.