28 September 2017

First comprehensive review of the Family Law Act

As Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs (Committee), I welcome the Attorney General’s announcement that the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) will undertake the first comprehensive review of the family law system since the commencement of the Family Law Act in 1976.

The Committee is currently conducting a parliamentary inquiry into a better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence.  As our inquiry has heard, urgent reform of the family law system is required.  Please see a video here of a recent speech I delivered in Parliament.  The terms of reference of our inquiry can be found at www.aph.gov.au/fvlawreform.

The ALRC review of the family law system will focus on key areas of importance to Australian families. These include ensuring the family law system prioritises the best interests of children, best addresses family violence and child abuse, and supports families, including those with complex needs, to resolve their family law disputes quickly and safely while minimising the financial burden.

The ALRC review will, I expect, consider the wide range of evidence our Committee has received on the need for major changes to the way that family violence cases are currently dealt with in the family law system.  I am pleased there will also be a focus on the court’s adversarial system which can often exacerbate conflict and hostility between parties to litigation when family breakdown occurs.

The Attorney General has appointed Professor Helen Rhoades to lead this historic and important work.  Professor Rhoades has been a professor at the Melbourne Law School since 2012, the Co-Convenor of the Melbourne Law School’s Family and Children’s Law Research Group, the Chair of the Family Law Council from 2010 to 2016, and a member of the National Advisory Board of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia.

The ALRC will consult widely with the community, practitioners and experts in family law and family dispute resolution, the legal, services and health sectors, as well as interested members of the public.

The review will commence on 1 October 2017 and will report by 31 March 2019.

28 September 2017