Updates on Family Law Amendment Bill 2023
8 September 2023
In July 2023, the Law Council made a submission to the the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee in response to its inquiry into the provisions of the Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 (Cth). Representatives from the Law Council subsequently appeared at the Committee’s hearing on 11 August to provide evidence. These representatives included the Law Council President and Deputy Director of Policy, along with the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Family Law Section.
The Committee reported on 24 August 2023. The Law Council was mentioned more than 130 times throughout the Report, with extracts from its submission and appearance at the hearing featured throughout.
The Committee arrived at 10 recommendations in areas of consensus, the majority of which were aligned with positions outlined in the Law Council’s submission. These recommendations included:
- amending Schedule 1 of the Bill to include a history of family violence, abuse and neglect when determining what is in the child’s best interests;
- incorporating the concepts of kinship and child-rearing practices into Schedule 3 of the Bill;
- removing proposed section 70NBE, relating to costs, from the Bill;
- that the Attorney-General’s Department should prioritise providing advice to the Attorney-General regarding the introduction of safeguards against the disclosure of ‘protected confidences’; and
- that the Australian Government should deliver an awareness and education campaign relating to the repeal of the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility and the primacy of the child’s best interests.
Additional comments by the Coalition were included in the Report, where a further 14 recommendations were provided by Senator Paul Scarr. Six of these recommendations directly referenced the Law Council, while three others were closely aligned with the Law Council’s positions in its submission.
The Law Council thanks its Constituent Bodies and Family Law Section for their ongoing and constructive engagement with these significant reforms. The Law Council intends to monitor the progress of the Bill in the Senate in the coming months, including any amendments brought.