We asked, you said, we did

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

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

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

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 are now seeking feedback to inform the government response to the Privacy Act Review Report. The deadline for feedback is 31 March 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.

We asked

We sought public submissions on behalf of the Legislation Act Review Committee as part of a broad review of all aspects of the operation of the Legislation Act 2003 (Cth), which was required by section 59 of the Act.

You said

The Review Committee received 33 written submissions from a range of stakeholders, including government agencies, interest groups and academics. Stakeholder submissions broadly acknowledged the important functions of the Act as a mechanism for managing Commonwealth Acts and instruments, and largely agreed that the existing objectives of the Act are being achieved and remain appropriate.

Thank you to all who provided a response.

We did

The Review Committee considered all submissions received as part of the final report of the review. On 3 August 2022, the Attorney-General tabled the final report in Parliament.

The Review Committee found the Act remains fit for purpose. The report made 28 recommendations for further consideration. These include:

  • amendments to the Act
  • revised legislation approval processes
  • improvements to guidance material
  • education activities.

We asked

In the May 2021 Budget, the Australian Government announced increased funding for Children’s Contact Services (CCS), including funding to establish 20 additional CCS across Australia.

We sought your feedback on a draft methodology to estimate demand for new CCS by Statistical Level Area Level 4 (SA4) in order to determine the location for the new CCS. 

You said

We received a total of 81 submissions to our consultation.  

Responses came from across Australia and included submissions from citizens, family law professionals and service providers.

Stakeholder feedback on the draft methodology indicated:  

  • General support for the factors considered, with particular support for population per CCS, proximity, and disadvantage.
  • Dissatisfaction with the measure used to determine proximity.
  • Support for a more holistic measure of disadvantage.
  • Support for a greater focus on proximity in the weighting of factors.

Other feedback included:

  • Support for the inclusion of a factor considering domestic and family violence.  

We did

The input we received made a substantial contribution to the final methodology used to determine the 20 locations selected.

The final methodology is based on the 3 factors that received the greatest amount of support in the consultation.

It includes a new proximity measure, and considers proximity to be the most significant factor in estimating demand. It also includes a more holistic measure of disadvantage.

The final 20 locations selected are:

  1. Wide Bay, QLD
  2. Queensland – Outback, QLD
  3. Sydney – South West, NSW
  4. Hunter Valley exc. Newcastle, NSW
  5. Northern Territory – Outback, NT
  6. Western Australia – Outback (North), WA
  7. New England and North West, NSW
  8. Melbourne – North West, VIC
  9. Melbourne – Outer East, VIC
  10. Adelaide – North, SA
  11. North West, VIC
  12. Gold Coast, QLD
  13. Far West and Orana, NSW
  14. Perth – North East, WA
  15. Hume, VIC
  16. Barossa – Yorke - Mid North, SA
  17. Latrobe – Gippsland, VIC
  18. Cairns, QLD
  19. Sydney – North Sydney and Hornsby, NSW
  20. Riverina, NSW