The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has just released the long awaited comprehensive review into the family law system. After more than a year in the making, the ALRC has made 60 recommendations. Should be some interesting reading there and some ground-breaking revelations to reform the system that is now 40+ years since inception – a lot has changed in the social and legal landscape in that time…
Recommendation # 1 is to:
“…consider options to establish state and territory family courts in all states and territories, to exercise jurisdiction concurrently under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), as well as state and territory child protection and family violence jurisdiction…”
OK then, the idea of families having their family law, DV and child protection matters dealt with by one Court kind of makes sense, but what of the inevitable variation in methods and processes to be followed if the ‘family law system’ is broken up like this and vested in the various state and territory legal systems? How is that going to simplify the process?
Recommendation # 1 goes further:
“…whilst also considering the most efficient manner to eventually abolish first instance federal family courts.”
Really? The proposed mergers of the federal family courts (the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Bills unsuccessfully introduced into Parliament last year) was bad enough in diluting and ultimately extinguishing the Family Court with all its specialised expertise by having appeals heard by the Federal Court and not continuing to appoint judges to the Family Court bench. This has got to be worse!
As to the rest of the recommendations, I must say that I am rather disappointed with the Review overall, as there is really nothing innovative or particularly addressing the access to justice issues in the recommendations. I had been hoping that such a broad-ranging review might have looked forward more – not just looked to address some of today’s or even yesterday’s problems.
There were really no solutions offered for what I see to be the biggest issue in family law – the fact that many families simply can’t afford to get the help they desperately need from the traditional law firm model and so they end up stumbling through years of grief to end up with very sub-optimal outcomes.
I still don’t think the Government and its “systems” have yet woken up to the legal revolution taking place around them. The development and growth of innovative people-centred approaches and tech-assisted options in the legal space worldwide seem to have been entirely overlooked, despite offering some of the most affordable and functional solutions to real people’s real problems.
Opportunity missed right there. Just sayin’.