While in Sydney attending the 16th National Family Law Conference I was buoyed by the continuing enthusiasm and commitment of family law practitioners, Judges and social scientists working in this demanding field. More than 940 people are attending the Conference convened by the Family Law Section of the Law Council.
The opening plenary saw Senator the Honourable George Brandis QC, Commonwealth Attorney-General, present the “state of the nation” overview of current challenges in family law and initiatives being explored by this Government.
The Attorney-General reflected upon the “revolution” that was the introduction of the Family Law Act in 1976 and a number of significant amendments to the legislation since then, including reforms relating to the introduction of shared parental responsibility in children’s matters in 2006 (an initiative of the Howard Government).
The prospect of funding short-falls and efficiency dividends remains for the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court – despite the demands on those Courts and their very significant workloads. How this fiscal goal (reported at $30m) can be reconciled with the increasing demands upon the Family Law Courts remains under consideration. The Attorney did not elaborate on initiatives which might be imposed or implemented to reach these targets.
The Attorney announced a number of initiatives which his Government was exploring, including:
1. Investigating ways to improve the delivery of legal assistance to vulnerable people (notwithstanding significant reductions in Commonwealth legal aid funding and funding to women’s and community legal centres and to a range of domestic violence initiatives);
2. Ways to improve certainty for people wanting to enter into agreements to resolve and determine their financial affairs and to remove uncertainty affecting Financial Agreements;
3. To improve information sharing and collaboration within the family law system and other agencies and participants, including State Welfare Agencies and Authorities;
4. Better support for parenting matters at Court including a scoping study about short trials dealing the variation of parenting orders, and contravention of orders;
5. The merger of “back office” services between the Family Court, Federal Circuit Court and the Federal Court.
The full text of the Attorney’s speech can be read at:
Di Simpson is one of the Partners of DDCS Lawyers, 18 Kendall Lane, New Acton, Canberra ACT 2601 and can be contacted on (02) 6212 7600.