On 9 May 2017, the Federal Government announced the 2017 budget. The Government announced $80 million in funding to family law and family violence services.
The budget included provision for:
- $12.7 million to establish Parent Management Hearings;
- $10.7 million for additional family consultants;
- $3.4 million for additional domestic violence units; and
- $55.7 million for Community Legal Centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.
Parent Management Hearings will be introduced to resolve simple family law disputes between self-represented litigants. Those managing the Hearings will make inquiries and gather evidence in order to make decisions. The Parent Management Hearings are intended to be quick, informal and non-adversarial and appear to be inquisitorial in nature. The Parent Management Hearings will be trialled in Parramatta, NSW and a yet to be announced second location.
The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court will also have funding to hire more Family Consultants, who are qualified psychologists and social workers. Family Consultants are appointed by the Court to prepare child inclusive conference memorandums to the Court and Family Reports to the Court. Family Consultants interview the parties and the children to prepare their reports.
The budget has also provided for 6 new domestic violence units to provide legal and social support to victims of family violence or to women who are at risk of experiencing family violence.
Further, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney-General, announced that the Australian Law Reform Commission will be conducting a comprehensive review of the family law system to make necessary reforms to ensure the system meets the needs of families and addresses family violence and child abuse. The report is due to be finalised by the end of 2018.
Mr Brandis also stated that the Government will soon release proposed amendments to the Family Law Act to ensure that victims of family violence will not be cross-examined by alleged perpetrators or will not be required to personally cross-examine their alleged perpetrator.
Nicholes Family Lawyers looks forward to the implementation of the additional funding to the family law system.