5 March 2023: Australia’s never-ending family law reviews, and revisions to its beleaguered Family Law Act (1975), continue with the Government’s latest draft Family Law Amendment Bill 2023. But, once again, Australia is failing to best protect children’s best interests.
While many of the proposed amendments to the Family Law Act represent valuable improvements to the current Act, they’re exactly the sort of “tinkering” with family law that Australia’s former chief judge publicly railed against:
“In my view, if legislation and the ALRC report do not assuage public concerns about the family law system, it must surely be time to consider a royal commission into family law,” Justice John Pascoe said, making the unprecedented call for a major review into his own institution.
Key goals missed
In its associated Consultation Paper, released in January 2023, the Australian Government attempts to lay out its primary reasons for the proposed changes. Yet, as highlighted in Two Wishes’ and For Kids Sake’s response, these changes fail to achieve the stated, key goals of making family law more accessible and, most importantly, ensuring that the best interests of children are protected.
- The legislation will remain “overly complex and confusing”;
- The proposed amendments fail to adequately address the “inconsistency in the competency and accountability of … family law professionals”. The proposed amendments fail to introduce adequate levels of scrutiny, feedback and accountability into the family law system;
- The amendments fail to address the “hardship and financial burden” created by adversarial litigation. Family court proceedings will remain unaffordable to the overwhelming majority of Australians;
- There will still be a “lack of support for children” and families. Much earlier, more accessible support is needed for all children and families;
- The legislation will remain inaccessible and will not be simple for legal practitioners, let alone parents, to use. The proposed language and structure of the amended Act remains complex and open to highly subjective interpretation;
- The proposed amendments will do little to improve the delivery of justice and fairness for all Australian families. The Family Law Act will remain impenetrable to the average Australian and open to highly subjective interpretation by different judicial officers.
Despite some valuable proposals and draft improvements to the current Act, the latest amendments to Australia’s Family Law Act unfortunately fail to address fundamental problems with the Act, to achieve the Government’s stated objectives. Australia fails to look after our children’s best interests. Again.