We asked, you said, we did

Here are some issues we recently consulted on and their outcomes.

We asked

Australia’s Open Government Forum is developing Australia’s third National Action Plan (NAP3) in consultation with civil society and government. The NAP3 will outline commitments by the Australian Government to activities that promote transparency, accountability and collaboration between the government, civil society and the business community.

The Open Government Forum agreed on a co-creation process in June 2023. This process outlined 2 phases of public consultation. We undertook Phase 2 public consultation through an online survey from 9 November 2023 – 22 November 2023.

The forum established 8 commitments for inclusion in in Australia’s third National Action Plan. Phase 2 consultation focused on these commitments:

  • Commitment 1: Automated decision-making and responsible use of artificial intelligence
  • Commitment 2: Youth Advisory Groups
  • Commitment 3: Commonwealth Integrity Strategy
  • Commitment 4: Beneficial ownership reform
  • Commitment 5: Integrity and accountability in procurement and grants
  • Commitment 6: Commonwealth whistleblower protections
  • Commitment 7: Transparent political donations and truth in political advertising
  • Commitment 8: Combatting misinformation in non-English-speaking communities

You said

We received 10 responses to this consultation. The submissions came from a range of stakeholders, including businesses, not-for-profit groups and individuals.

The responses included helpful suggestions to support the implementation of commitments for Australia’s next National Action Plan.

All respondents identified which commitments they felt were of the highest importance, and provided valuable insight on how each commitment might be successfully implemented.

We thank everyone who took the time to engage with us and provide their feedback.

We did

Analysis and summary of the responses was provided to all forum members and included in the meeting papers for the fifth forum meeting on 4 December 2023. There was clear alignment between most of the responses and the commitments the forum chose.

The consultation responses will be used to inform the development and implementation of the commitments in the NAP3. Read the consultation analysis report and further updates on the progress of NAP3 at the Australia’s Open Government Partnership site. The forum consulted on the co-creation process and the working group themes during Phase 1 consultation.

We asked

On 27 October 2021, the Australian Government launched the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021-2030 (National Strategy), and committed $307.5 million for implementing 62 measures under the National Strategy’s First National Action Plan (NAP) and First Commonwealth Action Plan.

Under the National Strategy, the National Office for Child Safety (National Office) is establishing a national point of referral to help victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, practitioners and the general public to navigate the service system and access information and resources (National Action Plan Measure 7).

We understand that the current service system in Australia is complex, often difficult to navigate, and that there is no single-entry point for victims and survivors and other people seeking information and support. We sought feedback on how best to design a service that meets people’s diverse needs in a trauma informed, culturally safe and accessible way.

You said

We received 38 responses to this consultation and 12 written submissions. We also conducted targeted consultations with sector representatives, peak bodies and government agencies, and engaged First Nations Collective Consulting who partnered with Impact Co., to undertake dedicated trauma-informed, culturally safe, accessible and inclusive consultations with people with lived experience, First Nations people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, and people with disability.

We heard from a range of stakeholders including:

  • people with lived experience of child sexual abuse and their advocates
  • First Nations people
  • people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities
  • people with disability
  • people who identify as LGBTQIA+
  • health services 
  • service providers 
  • government agencies 
  • advisory groups 
  • Children’s Commissioners 
  • legal services 
  • peak bodies 
  • advocacy services 
  • research organisations
  • religious organisations.

Stakeholders told us what makes services feel trustworthy, safe and effective, as well as the enablers and barriers to accessing services. Stakeholders highlighted that victims and survivors need to be at the centre of the national point of referral and they need to feel confident and safe when seeking help. Qualified staff providing localised knowledge and referrals are important, as is the capacity and capability to meet demand. Stakeholders want a trauma-informed, culturally safe, intersectional service that provides specialist information and advice about child sexual abuse and quickly connects people with local services and support.

As part of the Supporting Quality Engagement with Children project, the National Children’s Commissioner consulted with children and young people to inform approaches to help seeking and service access. These consultations were undertaken in urban, regional, and remote locations across all Australian states and territories and will contribute to the evidence base informing the design and implementation of the national point of referral. Please visit the Supporting Quality Engagement with Children page for more information.

Thank you to everyone who took part and provided their time and expertise.

We did

The Final National Point of Referral – Community Consultations Summary 2023 provides a summary of feedback from individuals and communities. The Final National Point of Referral – Service Sector and Government Consultations Summary 2023 outlines a summary of the feedback from sector representatives, peak bodies and government agencies. 

Stakeholders who participated in these consultations were invited to provide feedback on the draft summaries, which has been incorporated into the final documents.

The consultation outcomes will inform our approach to developing, delivering and evaluating the preferred service model for the national point of referral. We are working with states and territories to finalise the proposed service model in 2024.   

We asked

From 18 September to 10 November 2023, we sought feedback on an exposure draft of the Family Law Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2023 (the exposure draft). The exposure draft proposed amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) to make sure separating couples can better understand the decision-making framework used in family law to resolve their property and financial matters confidently and safely.

The proposed amendments aim to address the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Final Report No. 135: Family Law for the Future - An Inquiry into the Family Law System and implement elements of the Government Response to the Joint Select Committee on Australia's Family Law System.

The release of the exposure draft was an opportunity for the community to provide feedback on the proposed amendments. We asked for feedback about the proposed amendments, including whether they achieve our intended policy outcomes, using specific questions set out in a consultation paper.

You said

We received 86 submissions on the exposure draft. These came from:

  • members of the public
  • legal professionals
  • family law services sector representatives including family dispute resolution professionals and Children’s Contact Services
  • women’s safety advocacy groups
  • First Nations bodies
  • academics.

Many submissions supported the policy intention of reforms in the exposure draft, particularly the focus on recognising the economic effect of family violence in family law matters and simplifying the property decision-making framework.

The responses included helpful, technical suggestions to support improvements to the exposure draft, and provided useful insights based on experience within the family law system.

We did

The feedback will inform our advice to government on improvements to the exposure draft. We thank everyone who took the time to engage with us by providing feedback.

We have published submissions where we have received permission from the author to do so. Some submissions have been redacted to avoid breaching section 121 of the Family law Act, for privacy considerations and where there are concerns about copyright material.

We asked

Australia’s Open Government Forum is developing Australia’s third National Action Plan (NAP3) in consultation with civil society and government. The NAP3 will outline commitments by the Australian Government to activities that promote transparency, accountability and collaboration between the government, civil society and the business community.

The Open Government Forum (forum) agreed on a co-creation process in June 2023. This process outlined 2 phases of public consultation. We undertook Phase 1 public consultation through an online survey from 21 August 2023 – 17 September 2023.

The forum established 3 working groups to consider, develop and prioritise potential commitments for inclusion in Australia’s third National Action Plan. Phase 1 consultation focused on the co-creation process and the working group themes:

  • Working group 1: Public participation and engagement
  • Working group 2: Government and corporate sector integrity
  • Working group 3: Strengthening democratic processes

You said

We received 31 responses to this consultation, which included 1 emailed submission. Submissions were received from a range of stakeholders, including businesses, representative bodies, not-for-profit groups, academics and individuals.

The responses included helpful suggestions to support the development of commitments for Australia’s next National Action Plan.

A majority of stakeholders stated that the consultation provided appropriate opportunities to consult and that they supported the 3 themes. We thank everyone who took the time to engage with us and provide their feedback.

We did

Analysis and summary of the responses was provided to all Working Group members and included in the meeting papers for the fourth forum meeting on 5 October 2023. There was clear alignment between most of the responses and the key priority areas that were identified by the Working Groups.

The Working Groups used the consultation responses to inform the development of potential commitments for NAP3. Read the consultation analysis report and further updates on the progress of NAP3 at the Australia’s Open Government Partnership site. The forum will consult on the draft commitments during Phase 2 consultation.

We asked

In July 2023, we sought public submissions for a proposal to amend the Statutory Declarations Act 1959 and the Statutory Declarations Regulations 2018 to introduce new ways of executing Commonwealth statutory declarations.

The framework would allow a Commonwealth statutory declaration to be executed in any of the following ways:

  • traditional paper-based execution (requiring wet-ink signatures and in-person witnessing)
  • e-execution (allowing electronic signatures and witnessing via audio-visual link)
  • digital execution (end-to-end online execution, with digital identity providers to verify identity and satisfy witnessing requirements).

You said

We received written submissions from a range of stakeholders, including interest groups, academics and individuals. Stakeholders noted that the proposal would provide options for making statutory declarations that will increase accessibility for all Australians, regardless of their circumstances.

Stakeholders generally noted that electronic execution can save individuals and small businesses time and money, that the temporary measures have worked effectively, and that the COVID temporary measures should be retained. Stakeholders were also strongly of the opinion that the traditional, paper-based method be retained.

The digital option was also well received. Stakeholders noted the reform would have the following benefits:

    • convenience and efficiency savings
    • the potential to save individuals and small businesses both time and money
    • accessibility gains, particularly for those in the community with restricted mobility, sensory or anxiety concerns, or individuals in remote areas or with limited access to witnesses
    • increased accessibility corresponds to increased access to justice where the statutory declaration is being used within legal system frameworks in particular.

The digital option was seen to reduce the risk of invalid declarations (e.g. failure to comply with the formalities). The ability to leverage an individual’s established digital identity with appropriate protections would also result in welcome efficiencies and flexibility, saving time and money. Some stakeholders supported the digital option, provided that there were appropriate privacy protections, data security, and fraud detection and prevention measures.

Thank you to all who provided a response.

We did

The input we received made a substantial contribution to the development of the final proposed reform, including a number of safeguards that will address the issues raised by stakeholders.

The Attorney-General introduced the Statutory Declarations Amendment Bill 2023 into the House of Representatives on 7 September 2023. Access the Bill and accompanying Explanatory Memorandum on the Australian Parliament House website. 

We asked

The Administrative Review Taskforce (Taskforce) conducted public consultation on reform to the administrative review system between April and May 2023. An Issues Paper was published seeking views on the development of a new federal administrative review body. The Issues Paper asked 67 questions on a wide range of matters relating to the design of the new federal administrative review body.

We sought public input through:

  • short survey
  • Issues Paper 
  • meetings with selected individuals and organisations, including AAT staff and members 
  • user experience sessions. 

You said

During the consultation period, we spoke with:

  • 147 stakeholders with wide-ranging interest in the reform, including:
  • people with experience as applicants in the AAT 
  • migration and refugee representatives and advocacy groups
  • disability representatives and advocacy groups
  • social security representatives and advocacy groups
  • veteran support
  • legal organisations, including Legal Aid Commissions and Community Legal Centres
  • academics
  • government
  • State and Territory civil and administrative tribunals
  • Over 400 AAT staff
  • Over 160 AAT members.

We received 287 short survey responses and 120 submissions in response to the Issues Paper.

We did

Feedback provided through the public consultation is being used to inform the development of legislation and to plan the implementation of the new federal administrative review body. 

The Expert Advisory Group, chaired by former High Court Justice, the Hon. Patrick Keane AC KC, has considered the results of consultation to inform their advice to government on the reform.

We asked

The Administrative Review Taskforce (Taskforce) conducted public consultation on reform to the administrative review system between April and May 2023. An Issues Paper was published seeking views on the development of a new federal administrative review body. The Issues Paper asked 67 questions on a wide range of matters relating to the design of the new federal administrative review body.

We sought public input through:

  • short survey
  • Issues Paper 
  • meetings with selected individuals and organisations, including AAT staff and members 
  • user experience sessions. 

You said

During the consultation period, we spoke with:

  • 147 stakeholders with wide-ranging interest in the reform, including:
  • people with experience as applicants in the AAT 
  • migration and refugee representatives and advocacy groups
  • disability representatives and advocacy groups
  • social security representatives and advocacy groups
  • veteran support
  • legal organisations, including Legal Aid Commissions and Community Legal Centres
  • academics
  • government
  • State and Territory civil and administrative tribunals.
  • Over 400 AAT staff
  • Over 160 AAT members

We received 287 short survey responses and 120 submissions in response to the Issues Paper.

We did

Feedback provided through the public consultation is being used to inform the development of legislation and to plan the implementation of the new federal administrative review body. 

The Expert Advisory Group, chaired by former High Court Justice, the Hon. Patrick Keane AC KC, has considered the results of consultation to inform their advice to government on the reform. 

We asked

As part of our review of 4 sunsetting legislative instruments under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), we sought stakeholder feedback on the operation of and potential changes to the instruments.

The 4 sunsetting instruments are:

  • Native Title (Tribunal) Regulations 1993
  • Native Title (Notices) Determination 2011 (No. 1)
  • Native Title (Federal Court) Regulations 1998
  • Native Title (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Regulations 1999

You said

We received 4 responses to the consultation. We thank everyone who took the time to provide us with their feedback. The responses included helpful, technical suggestions to aid the implementation of the proposed changes, as well as useful insights into the operation of the instruments in their current form.

We did

We are using the feedback received to inform proposed changes to the instruments, and are workshopping the suggestions received with key stakeholders. The instruments are due to sunset on 1 October 2023.

We asked

On 16 February 2023, the Attorney-General publicly released the Privacy Act Review Report. The report put forward 116 proposals for reform of Australia’s privacy framework, aimed at clarifying the scope of the Privacy Act, uplifting protections for individuals, providing clarity to regulated entities and enhancing enforcement mechanisms.

We undertook public consultation to inform the Australian Government’s response to the Privacy Act Review Report through an online survey. We received written submissions from individuals and public and private entities.

You said

As part of this consultation, we received approximately 500 written submissions and held further meetings to understand stakeholder views on the proposed reforms. Thank you to everyone who took the time to engage with us and provide their feedback.

We did

The Australian Government has used the feedback received during the consultation period to inform its response to the Privacy Act Review Report, which was released on 28 September 2023. 

We asked

On 13 September 2022, the Attorney-General released the Terms of Reference for a Targeted Review of Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (the Targeted Review). On 7 December 2022, the Attorney-General released the discussion paper for the Targeted Review, initiating a 3-month public consultation period. The discussion paper set out key areas of focus for the targeted review and included 42 discussion questions.

Read the Discussion Paper [PDF 1.1MB] for the Targeted Review.

We sought public input through an online survey or via written submission and conducted targeted consultations.

You said

The Targeted Review consultation received 30 written submissions and survey responses. During the consultation period we conducted 16 targeted consultation sessions with interested stakeholders, both in person and online, involving 49 organisations, including government, civil society and academia. We also spoke with victims and survivors.

Submissions to the review, including responses to the online survey, will be published shortly, with the exception of a small number of submissions that are confidential. 

We did

The Targeted Review considered all submissions and responses received as part of the consultation. The findings report is now publicly available. We would like to acknowledge the contribution of participants to the consultation processes.

The report has 22 findings. Key themes informing the findings include:

  • Australia’s modern slavery offences are robust, but could be further modernised to ensure they remain future-proof and can apply more consistently to the conduct of Australians offshore
  • additional guidance could help to build a shared understanding of key concepts and definitions, thereby supporting investigations and prosecutions
  • the offence framework is complex compared to similar jurisdictions
  • the modern slavery offences could be improved to better account for unique cultural and personal circumstances of victims and survivors
  • stakeholders have a strong desire to be consulted on any specific reforms developed to respond to the findings
  • there is support for complementary measures out of the scope of the review, such as remedies for victims and survivors and increasing access to the Support for Trafficked People Program.

Feedback received during the Targeted Review and resulting findings will inform future legal and policy work to strengthen Australia’s response to modern slavery.

Read the findings report for the Targeted Review of Divisions 270 and 271 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) [PDF 1.7MB].

We asked

From 30 January to 27 February 2023, we sought feedback on an exposure draft of the Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 (the Bill). The draft Bill proposed a streamlined parenting framework, including by simplifying the ‘best interests factors’ a court must consider in determining parenting arrangements, and removing the ‘presumption of equal shared parental responsibility’ and associated time considerations.

The draft legislation also proposed to:

  • introduce a requirement in the legislation for Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICLs) to meet directly with children
  • increase judicial discretion to appoint ICLs in matters under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
  • provide courts with greater powers to protect parties and children from the harmful effects of protracted and adversarial litigation
  • provide a definition of ‘member of the family’ in the Family Law Act 1975 (the Family Law Act) that is inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of family and kinship
  • simplified compliance and enforcement provisions for child-related orders
  • create regulation-making powers to enable the government to establish schemes that set requirements for family law report writers
  • introduce an express power for courts to exclude evidence of ‘protected confidences’ in family law matters (that is, evidence relating to the provision of health services, such as medical or counselling records)
  • clarify restrictions around public communication of family law proceedings.

The release of the draft Bill was an opportunity for the community to provide feedback on the proposed amendments.

We prepared a consultation paper to explain the exposure draft and sought stakeholder views on key issues. We invited submissions in response to the wording of the proposed amendments and, in particular, to the specific consultation questions set out in the paper.

You said

We received approximately 450 responses to the exposure draft of the Bill, either via our website through Citizen Space or our dedicated email address.

Most stakeholders were supportive of the policy intention of the Bill, particularly the focus on safety and simplification. Key themes of feedback on the exposure draft were as follows:

  • support for legislative simplification in general, and feedback that it will reduce the complexity (and expense) associated with parenting matters
  • support for the increased focus on the best interests of the child in parenting matters
  • support for the removal of the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility and consideration of time obligations (existing sections 61DA and s65DAA), which many argued detracts from the focus on the best interests of the child
    • stakeholders that did not support the removal of the presumption were concerned that this would decrease the opportunities for both parents to be involved with their child
    • other stakeholders were in favour of re-wording the presumption to make it clear that it means ‘joint decision making on major long-term issues’ instead of repealing the provision
  • support for expanding definitions in the Family Law Act to recognise Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander concepts of family, subject to possible unintended consequences being addressed
  • support for enhancing the views of children in family law matters and ensuring their voices are heard and considered in proceedings that affect them
  • support for the policy intent of the provisions regarding ‘protected confidences’, but concern they may not achieve their policy intent as drafted.

A significant volume of technical feedback was provided by submitters on all Schedules of the Bill.

We did

As a result of the consultation process, a number of important changes were made to the Bill to ensure the reforms best support Australian children and families:

  • The Objects provision in Part VII of the Act (relating to children) was amended to make it clear that safety should be specifically considered when ensuring that the best interests of children are met.
  • Amendments were made to the factors that the court must consider when determining the best interests of the child to provide clarity and address issues raised by stakeholders in relation to safety considerations, cultural considerations, the consideration of the capacity of each parent to provide for the child’s needs, and circumstances where a parent does not have an existing relationship with a child.
  • To address stakeholder concerns about potential unintended consequences associated with the removal of equal shared parental responsibility, changes were made to:
    • encourage parents to consult each other about major long-term issues prior to court orders being made
    • make it clear that the court can make an order for joint decision making for major long-term issues
    • clarify the orders that will invoke the requirement for decisions to be made jointly, and
    • co-locate the provisions relating to parental responsibility to make the Act more user-friendly.
  • Clarifying changes were made to provisions around ICLs to:
    • make clear that the exception where an ICL is not required to meet with a child due to the risk of physical or psychological harm only applies where that risk cannot be safely managed
    • make clear that if an ICL is not required to perform a duty to meet with a child due to exceptional circumstances, that the court must consider this before final orders are made and not as part of every court event.
  • Changes were made to the provisions for harmful proceedings orders and for establishing an overarching purpose of family law practice and procedure to:
    • make clear that in harmful proceedings against a party, the court must make an order about whether the respondent is to be notified about any further applications filed
    • allow courts to dismiss applications for leave in harmful proceedings cases without an oral hearing or in chambers instead to enable the court to deal with harmful or unmeritorious litigations more efficiently
    • reorder the list of factors in the overarching purpose so that the efficiency of proceedings does not read as being secondary to safety factors.
  • In relation to the family report writers provisions:
    • references to a ‘designated report’ have been changed to make clear it is a ‘designated family report’ in relation to family report writer provisions
    • further detail has been included about who is considered a regulator, to specify who may be delegated powers and functions, and to specify relevant courts for the purposes of exercising regulatory powers and civil penalties.
  • The provisions relating ‘protected confidences were removed from the Bill prior to its introduction into Parliament. The government is seeking further views on this issue as part of the consultation process on a second tranche of family law reforms

Further amendments were made to the Bill following the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee Report issued on 24 August 2023 and as a result of further consultation and stakeholder submissions to the committee. These include:

  • amendments to the ‘best interests’ factors to ensure the history of family violence, abuse and neglect are considered when determining the arrangements that would promote the safety of the child and their caregivers, and that courts must consider exposure to family violence
  • an amendment to give greater clarity to guidance surrounding the stand-alone factor for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • clarifying Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander concepts of family and their obligations to court notifications
  • amendments to enable the removal of the higher threshold requirement for consideration of child’s objections to a return order in Hague Convention cases
  • amendments to ensure the Bill operates in line with the government’s policy intention to ensure that children’s best interests are placed at the centre of the family law system and its operation
  • addition of a review provision
  • changes to many application provisions to ensure that the changes apply to all existing court matters on commencement, excluding those where a final hearing has commenced
  • removal of the proposed costs provision specific to contravention proceedings to avoid duplication of the court’s discretionary power to award costs in family law matters.

We have published submissions where we have received permission from the author to do so. Some submissions have been redacted to avoid breaching section 121 of the Family Law Act, for privacy considerations and where there are concerns about copyrighted material.

The Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 passed the Senate, with amendments, on 19 October 2023. The House of Representatives agreed to the Senate amendments on 19 October 2023.

The Governor-General gave Royal Assent to the Bill on 6 November, 2023. It is now the Family Law Amendment Act 2023 (Act No. 87 of 2023). Most of the changes to the law will apply from 6 May 2024.

Information related to the passage of the Bill, including the text of the Bill, the amendments, the explanatory memorandums and all speeches are available online. Read the media release containing an overview of the changes.

We asked

The Australian Government is considering the merits and design of a federal judicial commission that could independently examine and deal with complaints made to it about federal judges. We invited submissions on the model and key features of a federal judicial commission, addressing the questions and themes set out in the discussion paper, Scoping the Establishment of a Federal Judicial Commission.

You said

We received 57 written submissions in response to the consultation from a range of organisations and individuals. Thank you to everyone who took the time to provide their views. 

We did

The submissions we received are informing our advice to government on the merits and design of a federal judicial commission.

We asked

An Issues Paper was released in August 2022 to initiate a 3-month public consultation period. The Issues Paper set out key areas of focus for the review and included 27 targeted consultation questions. Topics included the impact of the Modern Slavery Act and administration and enforcement of compliance with the reporting requirement.

Read the Issues Paper [PDF] for the review.

We sought public input to the review through 5 consultation avenues:

  • written submissions
  •  an online questionnaire featuring 27 consultation questions
  • an online survey for reporting entities
  • targeted consultations
  • meetings with selected individuals and committees.

 

You said

During the public consultation period, 38 targeted consultations were held with 285 representatives from government and non-government organisations including business, civil society and academia. In addition to the formal public consultation program, we met with individuals and committees with  a strong practical connection to Australian Government modern slavery policy and practice. A total of 65 engagements were undertaken, including consultations, meetings, presentations and events.

The review received 136 written submissions and 30 responses to the online questionnaire. The review received 496 responses to the online survey for reporting entities. An overview of survey results is included in the Review Report.

A diversity of views was expressed during the consultations. These are discussed in detail in the Review Report.

We did

We and Professor John McMillan, AO, review lead, would like to acknowledge everyone’s contribution to the review through the extensive consultation processes.

The review considered all submissions and responses received as part of the Review Report. On 25 May 2023, the government tabled the report in Parliament.

The report made 30 recommendations for government consideration, including:

  • amendments to the Act, such as the threshold and scope of entity reporting
  • introducing penalties for specific non-compliance
  • expanding guidance material
  • the role of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner in relation to the Act.

Read the Report for the Review of the Modern Slavery Act.

We asked

On 16 September 2022, the Attorney-General of Australia, the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP, announced the commencement of a public consultation on a draft of the National Principles to Address Coercive Control.  The consultation process was open until 11 November 2022 and included an online survey, a series of targeted roundtable consultations and engagement with an expert Advisory Group comprised of victim-survivor advocates, family and domestic violence experts and representatives of people at increased risk of coercive control.

You said

We heard from more than 400 stakeholders through this consultation process. You can find a summary of the statistics and key findings from this consultation on the Attorney-General’s Department website.

We did

Feedback from this consultation is informing revisions to the National Principles. A revised version will be finalised by the Standing Council of Attorneys-General later in 2023.

We asked

An exposure draft of the Federal Court of Australia Amendment (Extending Criminal Jurisdiction and Other Measures) Bill was released inviting feedback from the public from 4 to 31 October 2022. We were particularly interested in feedback from stakeholders including heads of jurisdiction, state and territory justice departments and directors of public prosecutions, law societies and bar associations. The purpose of this consultation was to identify potential improvements to the operational effectiveness of the Bill.

You said

We received 8 submissions during the public consultation period from state and territory entities, legal practitioners and other key members of the legal community. We thank everyone who took the time to provide us with their feedback. The responses included helpful, technical suggestions to aid the implementation of the Bill.

We did

Feedback from this consultation informed revisions to the Bill to clarify its operation.

We asked

The Australian Government’s first Implementation Plan under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap included funding for culturally safe and appropriate family dispute resolution (FDR) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. To design the new services, we engaged with stakeholders across government, the Coalition of Peaks, community organisations and interested community members between 1 February and 8 April 2022.

You said

Over 60 individuals and organisations participated in a number of virtual meetings and workshops during the consultation period. We also received 22 written submissions. Participants came from locations across Australia, and brought a wealth of experience and expertise. This included representatives from:

  • the community 
  • the service delivery sector
  • courts 
  • peak and professional bodies 
  • training organisations
  • Commonwealth and state governments.

Key findings from the consultation process included: 

  • It is important to ensure funding is flexible enough to allow organisations to deliver tailored, culturally safe models of FDR appropriate to the unique needs of individuals, families and communities, while still meeting program requirements and the best interests of children.
  • Funding amounts and short timeframes for implementation potentially limit the ability of the services to best support families and achieve desired outcomes.
  • Definitions of ‘family’ should extend beyond notions of the nuclear family to include broader kinship networks and extended family. This includes provisions for multiple parties to be involved in the FDR process, and appropriate time, travel allowance and resourcing to accommodate this. 
  • The extensive time and resources required to recruit and/or train FDR Practitioners, especially given current problems recruiting and housing staff, may lead to difficulties implementing the program.
  • The requirements to become a FDR Practitioner may present a barrier to some First Nations people who have the lived/professional experience, rather than the qualifications required. 
  • It is important to ensure appropriate arrangements are put in place (e.g. for reporting and evaluation purposes) to provide data sovereignty for ACCOs and communities.
  • FDR has promising potential to resolve family arrangements in the best interests of children through an early-intervention approach, which may lead to reduced involvement by child protection authorities and youth courts in some cases.

We did

We have used the feedback and information shared during the consultation process to inform the Grant Opportunity Guidelines for the new First Nations Family Dispute Resolution services. The information will also continue to inform future policy development and decisions.

We recently ran a grant selection process for the new services. We ensured there was Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander representation on the Selection Advisory Panel for the grant round, as stakeholders identified this as important during the consultation process. The new services are expected to commence in early 2023.

We thank all those involved in the consultation process for their time and engagement with the project, and for sharing their views, information and ideas.

We asked

In February 2022, we asked for feedback on options to implement 6 legislative recommendations from the Respect@Work Report, namely: 

  • providing that creating or facilitating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or offensive environment on the basis of sex is expressly prohibited (recommendation 16(c))
  • introducing a positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment from occurring and provide the AHRC with the function of assessing compliance with the positive duty, and for enforcement (recommendations 17 and 18)
  • providing the AHRC with a broad inquiry function to inquire into systemic unlawful discrimination, including sexual harassment (recommendation 19)
  • enabling representative bodies to bring representative claims to court (recommendation 23)
  • inserting a cost provision into the AHRC Act to provide that a party to proceedings may only be ordered to pay the other party's costs in limited circumstances (recommendation 25).

You said

As part of this consultation, we met with stakeholders and sought the views of the public on topics raised in the consultation paper through an online survey. We received 95 survey responses from a variety of stakeholders. This included: 

  • members of the public
  • employers and businesses
  • legal practitioners 
  • unions
  • advocates 
  • academics.

The majority of stakeholders supported the implementation of the recommendations, with some variation in views on how best to implement them.

Thank you to everyone who provided a response. 

We did

We used the feedback to progress work on these recommendations.

The feedback also informed the development of the Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Respect at Work) Act 2022. That Act took effect on 13 December 2022 (with the exception of some compliance functions), implementing 6 legislative recommendations of the Respect@Work Report (recommendations 16, 17, 18, 19, 23 and 43).

The government has referred the issue of costs in discrimination proceedings to us for review. We released a consultation paper as part of this review, inviting submissions to determine an appropriate costs protection model for Commonwealth discrimination matters that proceed to court. 

We asked

We asked people to share their views and feedback on any issues or impediments to people coming forward and sharing information with Royal Commissions. We did this as part of a review of how the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Cth) operates to protect sensitive information given, or sought to be given, to a Royal Commission.

You said

Feedback in submissions to the review was generally positive and indicated that the new confidentiality protections implemented by the Royal Commissions Amendment (Protection of Information) Act 2021 have been helpful in terms of giving people greater confidence to share stories and experiences with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

Thank you to everyone who provided a response.

We did

The feedback received has been used to inform the final report of the review.

The report identifies several possible legislative amendments to the Royal Commissions Act for further consideration:

  • applying confidentiality protections to future royal commissions
  • establishing processes for the operation of non-publication directions, including their lifting or amendment in appropriate circumstances
  • the admissibility of evidence given to a Royal Commission in tribunal proceedings
  • extending the scope of retribution protections for confidential submissions
  • options for clarifying circumstances in which non‑disclosure agreements might restrict information being provided to a Royal Commission
  • the possibility of allowing civil remedies to be sought within the Royal Commissions Act.

We asked

As part of our review of the Privacy Act 1988, we sought further feedback on potential changes to the Act.

These changes covered a broad range of topics, including:

  • the scope and application of the Act
  • the protections afforded by the Act 
  • how the Act is regulated and enforced.

You said

We received over 200 responses to the consultation from a range of stakeholders and individuals. Thank you to everyone who took the time to provide us with their feedback.

We did

We have used the feedback received to inform proposed reforms set out in the Privacy Act Review Report, which was released on 16 February 2023. We have also sought further feedback to inform the government response to the Privacy Act Review Report.

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.