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Do we need a family law Royal Commission?

By October 8, 2018October 28th, 2021No Comments

Child advocacy group Bravehearts will have been pleased to hear the comments of Family Court Chief Justice John Pascoe in a speech at this year’s National Family Law Conference in relation to whether Australia should hold a family law Royal Commission, as reported by the ABC.

Lawyers and judges attended the Conference in Brisbane last week, at the same time as the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has released a new discussion paper with proposed ways to fix the ailing system.

Chief Justice John Pascoe, whose tenure ends in December, took the opportunity to warn that the family law system “may need Royal Commission scrutiny if reforms currently underway do not address serious failings in the system”.

Chief Justice Pascoe noted there had already been about 50 major inquiries into the Family Law Act and said a family law Royal Commission could be necessary to “allow comprehensive public discourse by all stakeholders on all elements of the family law system and the protection of children”:

“Continual tinkering with the system, which we’ve seen over the past 40 years, in my opinion adds to complexity, uncertainty and cost, and often we don’t tackle the really big issues such as the divide between child protection and the family law system.”

Bravehearts has been lobbying unsuccessfully for several years now for a Royal Commission. The issue came to a head midway last year when the Turnbull Government finally addressed the issue for once and for all and ruled out holding a family law Royal Commission. At the time, the Turnbull Government told Bravehearts there were “significant constitutional limitations” standing in the way.

Shortly thereafter, however, Bravehearts sought further opinion on the constitutional issues from Curtin University Law School’s Professor Gerard Carney and University of NSW Law Dean George Williams who provided advice that there is actually no insurmountable constitutional barrier to setting up a Royal Commission. It’s unclear where the debate has headed—if anywhere–since that point.

Chief Justice Pascoe’s suggestion also received the support of acting shadow attorney-general Penny Wong, though she “said discussion of a Royal Commission was premature”, presumably because we getting close to seeing what the outcomes of the current reviews are.

Other experts disagree on the utility of a Royal Commission. Professor Parkinson of the University of Queensland told ABC: “If I had $100 million to spend, I could find many, many better ways to spend it than just going over the same old problems again and again [with a Royal Commission]. We know a lot about how to fix this system. I’m not sure all of that is in the Law Reform Commission’s discussion paper but we do know how to fix it. With some extra support we could do so.”

The ALRC is due to report the findings of its review to the Federal Government in March next year. Submissions in response to the proposals and analysis can be submitted to the ALRC by 13 November 2018.

Source: ABC News

You may like to read our blog where we asked Bravehearts why Australia needs a Royal Commission.

If you need assistance with a family law matter, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.


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