Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Australia's Family Law System Joint Select Committee
I rise today to provide an update on the progress of the Joint Select Committee on Australia's Family Law System. As with other committees, the way we have carried out our work has changed due to 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 would like to take this opportunity to thank members for their contribution.
To date, the committee has received and is currently processing over 1,500 individual submissions and almost 200 organisational submissions to this inquiry. We continue to receive and 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 to hear from individuals about their experiences of the family law system. We have also begun to hear from organisations in public hearings using the videoconferencing facilities available here in Canberra. Since COVID-19 restrictions came into place, we have conducted five in camera hearings and one public hearing. We will continue to conduct hearings in this way for the foreseeable future.
There are a number of things that have begun to emerge from the evidence. We have 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 our important work. On behalf of the committee, I thank all of the submitters and witnesses to this inquiry, especially those children, parents and grandparents who have been through or are currently in the family law system.