List of Recommendations

Recommendation 1

4.226
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government considers extending the Family Advocacy and Support Services program, subject to a positive evaluation, to a greater number of locations including in rural and regional Australia.

Recommendation 2

4.232
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government progresses, through the Council of Australian Governments, the development of a national family violence risk assessment tool. The tool must be nationally consistent, multimethod, multiinformant and culturally sensitive and be adopted to operate across sectors, between jurisdictions and among all professionals working within the family law system.

Recommendation 3

4.240
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government introduces to the Parliament amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) to require a risk assessment for family violence be undertaken upon a matter being filed at a registry of the Family Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, using the national family violence risk assessment tool. The risk assessment should utilise the national family violence risk assessment tool and be undertaken by an appropriately trained family violence specialist provider.

Recommendation 4

4.246
The Committee recommends, subject to a positive evaluation of the recently announced legallyassisted family dispute resolution pilot, the Australian Government seeks ways to encourage more legallyassisted family dispute resolution, which may include extending the pilot program.

Recommendation 5

4.254
The Committee recommends that the AttorneyGeneral considers how the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia can improve case management of family law matters involving family violence issues, including:
the adoption of a single point of entry to the federal family law courts so that applications, depending on the type of application and its complexity, are appropriately triaged, and actively case managed to their resolution in an expedited time-frame;
the greater use of mediation or alternative dispute resolution by the federal family courts during proceedings to encourage earlier resolution of matters;
the implementation of more uniform rules and procedures in the two federal family courts to reduce unnecessary complexity and confusion for families;
the establishment of formal and expedited referral pathways between state and territory magistrates courts and the federal family courts; and
the development of a stronger regime of penalties including cost orders to respond to abuse of process, perjury and noncompliance with court orders.

Recommendation 6

4.258
The Committee recommends that the AttorneyGeneral progresses through the Council of Australian Governments an expanded information sharing platform as part of the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme to include orders issued under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and orders issued under state and territory child protection legislation.

Recommendation 7

4.261
The Committee recommends the Australian Government introduces to the Parliament amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) to require a relevant court to determine family violence allegations at the earliest practicable opportunity after filing proceedings, such as by way of an urgent preliminary hearing and, where appropriate, refer to findings made, and evidence presented, in other courts.

Recommendation 8

4.262
The Committee recommends that abuse of process in the context of family law proceedings be identified in the list of example behaviours as set out in section 4AB(2) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).

Recommendation 9

4.264
The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General develops stronger restrictions in relation to access by other parties to medical records in family law proceedings.

Recommendation 10

4.270
The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General works with state and territory counterparts through the Council of Australian Governments to reach agreements (such as in relation to resources, education and court infrastructure) to encourage state and territory magistrates to exercise family law jurisdiction, particularly in specialist family violence courts and courts which deal with a high number of family violence matters.

Recommendation 11

4.272
The Committee recommends that the AttorneyGeneral works with state and territory counterparts through the Council of Australian Governments to establish a trial in one or more specialist state or territory family violence courts (including reaching agreement in relation to resources, education and court infrastructure) enabling family law issues in family violence cases to be determined by the one court, including expedited pathways for breach and enforcement proceedings. One of the trial courts should ideally be located in an area of high Indigenous population.

Recommendation 12

4.275
The Committee recommends the AttorneyGeneral introduces the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of the Parties) Bill 2017 into the Parliament for its urgent consideration such that perpetrators of family violence will be prohibited from cross examining the other party including in relation to the qualifications and funding of those appointed to undertake such cross examination.

Recommendation 13

5.67
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government introduces to the Parliament amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) to enable:
the impact of family violence to be taken into account in the Court’s consideration of both parties’ contributions; and
the impact of family violence to be specifically taken into account in the Court’s consideration of a party’s future needs.

Recommendation 14

5.71
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government introduces to the Parliament amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) to include a requirement for an early resolution process for small claim property matters. This process should involve a case management process upon application to the Court for a property settlement, rather than a pre-filing requirement, which will provide greater certainty and more expeditious resolution.

Recommendation 15

5.74
The Committee recommends that the Attorney General:
develops an administrative mechanism to enable swift identification of superannuation assets by parties to family law proceedings, leveraging information held by the Australian Taxation Office; and
amends the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and relevant regulations to reduce the procedural and substantive complexity associated with superannuation splitting orders, including by simplifying forms required to be submitted to superannuation funds.

Recommendation 16

5.80
The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General’s Department considers options for legislative amendment to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) to enable the federal family courts to make greater use of court orders for the split or transfer of unsecured joint debt and shared liabilities following the separation of families, particularly those affected by family violence.

Recommendation 17

5.83
The Committee recommends that the jurisdictional limit on state and territory magistrates’ courts hearing family law property disputes be increased and that the Attorney-General introduces to the Parliament the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures Bill 2017) to give effect to the increase.

Recommendation 18

5.86
The Committee recommends that the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) be amended to extend sections 69ZN and 69ZX, which requires the Court to conduct proceedings in a way which safeguards the parties against family violence in parenting matters, to apply in property division matters.

Recommendation 19

6.130
The Committee recommends that the Australian Law Reform Commission, as part of its current review of the family law system, develops proposed amendments to Part VII of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), and specifically, that it consider removing the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility.

Recommendation 20

6.136
The Committee recommends that the AttorneyGeneral extends the Family Advocacy and Support Services pilot, subject to positive evaluation, to include a child safety service attached to the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, modelled on the United Kingdom’s Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. The expanded service, which may require additional infrastructure, should:
provide ongoing supervision of the safety of children following orders made by a court;
bring applications to the Court where the risk of a child’s safety is of concern and where an exercise of judicial power is required to ensure the child’s ongoing safety; and
refer matters to state and territory child protection agencies, where required.

Recommendation 21

6.148
The Committee recommends the AttorneyGeneral, through the Council of Australian Governments where necessary, works to improve the information available to courts exercising family law jurisdiction at the earliest possible point in proceedings by:
implementing the Family Law Council’s recommendations in its 2015 Families with complex needs and the intersection of the family law and child protection systems – Interim Report for information sharing protocols between the federal family courts and state and territory child protection departments;
establishing a child safety service attached to the Court that operates as a liaison between the federal family courts and child protection departments to ensure all relevant information is available to the Court at the earliest possible stage; and
consider the adoption of multi-disciplinary panels by state and territory governments for child abuse investigations which would assist the family law courts to determine whether family violence has occurred; and
works with the Family Court of Australia to extend the Magellan program to all parenting matters where there are allegations of family violence.

Recommendation 22

6.156
The Committee recommends the AttorneyGeneral pursues legislation and policy reform to abolish private family consultants, with family consultants to be only engaged and administered by the Court itself. Further, the Committee recommends the development of an agreed fee schedule to regulate the costs of family reports and other expert witnesses.

Recommendation 23

6.159
The Committee concludes that the Court must be better informed of children’s views, concerns and matters affecting their welfare, and recommends that the Australian Law Reform Commission in its ongoing review of the family law system, examines and propose alternative mechanisms that would ensure children’s perspectives are heard in court.

Recommendation 24

7.96
The Committee recommends that, as a matter of urgency, the Australian Government implements the Family Law Council recommendations from both the 2012 Improving the family law system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients report, and the 2016 Families with complex needs and the intersection of the family law and child protection systems – Final Report, as they relate to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, including those recommendations addressing:
community education;
cultural competency;
service collaboration;
culturally diverse workforce;
early assistance and outreach;
legal and non-legal services;
interpreters;
cultural reports;
family group conferences;
participation of elders or respected persons in court hearings; and
consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives in the development of any reforms.

Recommendation 25

7.101
The Committee recommends that, as a matter of urgency, the Australian Government implements recommendations from both the 2012 Improving the family law system for clients from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds report, and the 2016 Families with complex needs and the intersection of the family law and child protection systems – Final Report, as they relate to culturally and linguistically diverse families, including those recommendations addressing:
community education;
cultural competency;
service integration;
culturally diverse workforce;
consultation with culturally and linguistically diverse communities in service evaluation;
interpreters;
cultural connection for children; and
family group conferences.

Recommendation 26

7.103
The Committee recommends the AttorneyGeneral extends the Family Advocacy and Support Service pilot to include collaboration and referral pathways to specialist support services for families with additional challenges, using the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service model.

Recommendation 27

8.82
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government develops a national and comprehensive professional development program for judicial officers from the family courts and from states and territory courts that preside over matters involving family violence. The Committee recommends that this program includes content on:
the nature and dynamics of family violence;
working with vulnerable clients;
cultural competency;
trauma informed practice;
family law; and
‘The Safe and Together Model’ for understanding the patterns of abuse and impact of family violence on children.

Recommendation 28

8.83
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government develops a national, ongoing, comprehensive, and mandatory family violence training program for family law professionals, including court staff, family consultants, Independent Children’s Lawyers, and family dispute resolution practitioners. The Committee recommends that this program includes content on:
the nature and dynamics of family violence;
working with vulnerable clients;
cultural competency;
trauma informed practice;
the intersection of family law, child protection and family violence; and
‘The Safe and Together Model’ for understanding the patterns of abuse and impact of family violence on children.

Recommendation 29

8.84
The Committee recommends the Australian Government undertakes an evaluation of the Addressing Violence: Education, resources and training (AVERT) family violence training program, with consideration of its content, format, uptake, reach and effectiveness.

Recommendation 30

8.87
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government develops a national accreditation system with minimum standards and ongoing professional development for family consultants modelled on the existing accreditation system for family dispute resolution practitioners. This system should include a complaints mechanism for parties when family consultants do not meet the required professional standards.

Recommendation 31

8.92
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government considers the current backlog in the federal family courts and allocates additional resources to address this situation as a matter of priority.

Recommendation 32

9.40
The Committee recommends the AttorneyGeneral works to introduce ‘wrap-around’ services co-located in the federal family courts, modelled on the provision of these legal and nonlegal support services in the specialist family violence courts of the states and territories.

Recommendation 33

9.44
The Committee recommends the AttorneyGeneral works to establish a systematic court referral mechanism to evidencebased, evaluated, best practice behaviour change programs, through an expanded Family Advocacy and Support Services program, which includes systematic reporting from behaviour change program providers to advise the Court on ongoing risks to families’ safety. Further, the Committee recommends that the AttorneyGeneral work with state and territory counterparts to ensure adequate funding of evidencebased, evaluated, best practice behaviour change programs to support the mechanism.

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