PS News on 25 August 2015 reports the Family Law Council have made recommendations that could lead to much needed improvements in child protection systems.
Major reforms have been recommended for Australia’s family law and child protection systems in an Interim Report prepared by the Family Law Council.
The Council was asked to examine the needs of families with complex needs and how the parallel operation of Federal family law and State and Territory child protection and family violence systems could inadvertently contribute to greater risks for vulnerable people.
Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis (pictured) released the Council’s Interim Report, which he said proposed a more streamlined, coherent and integrated approach to improve the overall safety of families and in particular children when involved in these systems.
In the Report, the Council said it had been aware of the urgency of the task, and that many of those who contributed to the Report regarded reform as an issue that should be given priority by all Governments in Australia.
The Council explored the possibilities of creating specialist multi-jurisdictional family violence Cocurts based on the principle of “one family, one judge”.
The Council also noted the concern of participants and practitioners that any reforms should be adequately resourced.
According to the Report, there is scope for greater cooperation between the family law and child protection systems as well as the capacity for transferring proceedings between the Federal Family Courts and State and Territory Children’s Courts.
The Report found two aspects of the current legal system that impeded the protection of children: the increasingly public nature of the family courts, which were designed to deal with private law matters; and the separation of courts and systems dealing with parenting orders, child protection and family violence matters.
Among its recommendations, the Report urged that the Family Law Act be amended to remove any doubt that Children’s Courts, no matter how constituted, were able to make Family Law Orders.
The Report also urged the Attorney-General to take matters to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and support the development of protocols for the collaborative exchange of information between the Family Courts and Child Protection Agencies, Police and mental health services.
The Council’s full Report is due in June next year.
Senator Brandis said the full Report would advise on collaboration and information sharing between the Family Courts and family relationship services as well as other relevant support services such as child protection, mental health, family violence, drug and alcohol, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and migrant settlement services.
A copy of the full report can be found at the following link: http://www.ag.gov.au/FamiliesAndMarriage/FamilyLawCouncil/Documents/Family-Law-Council-Interim-Report-Family-Law-and-Child-Protection.pdf