FRSA submission to the ALRC Family Law Inquiry

On 27 November FRSA lodged our submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Review of the Family Law System Discussion Paper.  The submission is available on the ALRC website.

FRSA’s response focused on the eleven themes expounded in the Discussion Paper. Rather than responding individually to each of the 124 proposals, we indicated a level of (qualified) support overall and pointed to those proposals requiring further reconsideration or fine-tuning. Importantly, our response reflected feedback from Members from two sources: responses to our November 2018 Survey and 22 case studies to demonstrate the real-life implications of existing or proposed legislation, activities and processes. Many thanks to those FRSA Members who contributed.

In summary, FRSA focused on reviewing the family law system through the lens of prevention and early intervention, within a public health model. We noted that one of the underlying strengths of the current system is its integration with the broader family and relationship services sector, and suggested that this integration is also the key to the family law system’s future reshaping and strengthening.

FRSA supported proposals for improving education, awareness and information, simplifying family law legislation and improving mechanisms for information sharing.  Our suggestions for supporting and enhancing the competence and sustainability of the family law workforce were accompanied by a call for better funding and cross-jurisdictional consistency in this area.

FRSA reflected on the proposal for establishing ‘families hubs’ to improve families’ access to advice and support. We suggested that consideration given to enhancing what already works through the FRCs and other ‘hub’ models, and building on, and resourcing, that. We called in particular for increased investment in case management and in the referral pathways that support clients through all stages of their family law journey, and we recommended better resourcing of the Family Law Pathway Networks.

FRSA supported The ALRC’s proposals for expanding the availability of FDR into property and financial matters and provided case study examples about what works – and what doesn’t – in FDR and related family law pathways and processes.

Our submission emphasised the primacy of the child in family law matters and promoted strategies for ensuring that children’s voices are heard, including Child Inclusive Practice, children’s participation in decision-making (e.g. regarding post order arrangements) and the establishment of a Children and Young People’s Advisory Council.

Finally, FRSA maintained that investment in a child-focused, whole of family approach to family law services and their interconnections with the family and relationship services and other sectors is worth every cent. We pointed out that current gaps in family law services exist largely because that investment is simply inadequate, and the cost to children’s wellbeing and development, to families and to society are huge. FRSA noted the significant resource implications for implementing any resulting restructure of the system and for sustaining existing services and supporting new models and structures.

Read the submission here