Improving the competency and accountability of family report writers

Closed 17 Dec 2021

Opened 22 Oct 2021

Feedback updated 24 Jul 2023

We asked

In late October 2021 we released a consultation paper on ‘Improving the competency and accountability of family report writers’ following recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Joint Select Committee’s review into the family law system.

We asked stakeholders 17 core questions about the following key issues:

  • Family report requirements – including whether ‘family report’ or ‘family report writer’ should be defined in legislation, and the content requirements of a family report.
  • Family report writer competency – including skills, training, registration, and suitability screening.
  • Quality assurance and oversight mechanisms – including audits and reviews, and whether there is sufficient information available to the public about family report writers.
  • Complaints avenues – including the entities best placed to investigate complaints, potential use of existing regulatory mechanisms, and approaches to managing issues and risks such as vexatious complaints
  • Potential implementation approaches – including the entities best placed to improve the competency and quality of family report writers and family reports.

You said

We received 96 submissions from a variety of stakeholders. This included:

  • individuals who had been a party to family law proceedings
  • organisations and advocates representing the legal sector, family violence prevention, industry associations, family relationship services, Children’s Commissioners and First Nations advocacy
  • academics
  • family report writers
  • legal and other professionals.

The submissions received provide overwhelming support for action that increases the competency and accountability of family report writers. More than 90% of stakeholders indicated support for reform, although stakeholders differed on the specific mechanisms and entities that would be best placed to achieve this.

Here are some of the key findings from the consultation process:

  • The majority of stakeholders were supportive of legislative definitions of the terms ‘family report’ and ‘family report writer’. There were diverging views on whether a legislative definition of ‘family report writer’ should include specific qualifications or types of professionals.
  • The majority of stakeholders agreed that core competencies should be mandated. The most commonly suggested areas of competency were family violence, trauma informed practice, children (including engaging with children, understanding children's rights and issues) and coercive control.
  • The majority of stakeholders were in favour of family report writers being subject to suitability screening such as mandatory Working with Children Checks, and quality assurance mechanisms such as peer audits.
  • Many stakeholders said that there was not sufficient information available about family report writers’ skills and qualifications, with many supporting a public register for family report writers.
  • A majority of stakeholders raised concerns with existing complaints mechanisms and indicated that improved avenues for making complaints about family report writers are required. Many stakeholders were supportive of a new entity to review and investigate complaints against family report writers.
  • A small number of stakeholders were not supportive of additional regulation of family report writers, instead advocating for greater resourcing and training to help improve family report writer competency and report quality. These stakeholders raised concerns about workforce pressures and the duplication of regulation with existing requirements if family report writers were subject to additional professional requirements and screening.

Read a summary of the responses to the questions in the Consultation Paper:

We did

We are grateful for and wish to thank everyone who made submissions and engaged on this important issue.

We have used the feedback and information shared during this consultation process to inform proposed reforms to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).

The Australian Government has developed the Family Law Amendment Bill 2023, which aims to address some of the most important issues raised around children and to place their best interests at the centre of the family law system. The Bill includes a measure which will give government the power to make regulations that set standards and requirements for family report writers.

Public consultation on the Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 is now open and we encourage you to share your views.

These changes are just the first step in moving towards ensuring the competency and accountability of family report writers. The government will need to establish the details of the standards and requirements in regulations and will continue to engage with stakeholders throughout this process. The introduction of any new standards and requirements would be staged appropriately to ensure that affected stakeholders have sufficient time to prepare for the change.

Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.


We have now published submissions for this consultation.

Family report writers play an essential role in family law parenting matters before the family law courts.

Family report writers are primarily from the professions of social work, psychology or psychiatry. They prepare reports that provide information and recommendations about parenting arrangements following separation that are in the best interests of the child or children.

They also play an important role in obtaining and representing children's views to the court. The parties involved, their legal representatives, and judges consider family reports when resolving parenting disputes.

Reports and public inquiries have raised concerns about the quality of family reports and some of the professionals involved in preparing the reports. This includes:

A consultation paper was published by the department to explore options to improve the competency, quality and overall number of professionals involved in writing family reports.

Download our consultation paper

The consultation paper - Improving the competency and accountability of family report writers wasprepared to provide information and identify matters that are important for the government’s consideration of this issue.

Contact us

Family Report Writers
Attorney-General's Department
3-5 National Circuit


  • Government
  • Family