Monday, 15 June 2020
Joint Select Committee on Australia's Family Law System
On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on Australia's Family Law System, I wish to make a statement concerning an update on the activities and progress of the committee. As with other committees, the way we have carried on our work has changed because of the restrictions in place over the past three months as a result of COVID-19. Despite these restrictions, the work of the committee has continued, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the committee, both in this place and in the other place, for their contribution.
To date the committee has received and is currently processing over 1,500 individual submissions and almost 200 organisational submissions to the inquiry. We continue to receive and to consider submissions. The committee has also held a number of hearings this year. We were fortunate to travel to several communities in Queensland and New South Wales in early March, where we conducted public and in camera hearings. We also had a number of hearings scheduled in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. While we have been unable to travel since mid-March, the committee has continued to conduct in camera hearings and to hear from individuals about their experiences of the family law system. We've also begun to hear from organisations in public hearings by using the videoconferencing facilities here in Canberra. Since COVID-19 restrictions came into place we've conducted five in camera hearings and one public hearing. We will continue to conduct hearings in this way for the foreseeable future.
A number of themes have begun to emerge from the evidence. We've heard about the costs associated with the family law system, delays in the court system and the appropriateness of our legal framework. We look forward to further interrogating these and other themes as we continue this important work. On behalf of the committee I thank all the submitters and witnesses to this inquiry, especially those children, parents and grandchildren who have been through or are currently involved in the family law system. I say to each of them: thank you for your courage in coming forward to share you story and your suggestions on how we can work together to make the family law system fair for all parties who engage with it and who are affected by it here in Australia.