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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21857

Mr McClelland asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 18 August 2003:

In respect of the working group established by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to consider recommendations in the Family Law Council's report “Family Law and Child Protection”, (a) who will serve on the working group, (b) which recommendations will it consider, (c) what are its terms of reference, (d) what will the working group be expected to produce, and (e) when will the working group be expected to report.

Mr Ruddock (Attorney-General) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(a) The working group will comprise officers from Commonwealth, State and Territory Attorney-General's Departments. The working group will consult with the officers' group that advises the Ministerial Council of Commonwealth, State and Territory Community Services Ministers.

(b) The working group will consider recommendations 10-14 of the Family Law Council report which are as follows:

Recommendation 10

The Family Law Act should be amended to allow Children's and Youth's Courts to make consent orders regarding residence and contact in certain circumstances.

Recommendation 11

Section 69ZK should be amended to make clear beyond doubt that residence and contact orders made pursuant to child welfare legislation as an outcome of proceedings brought by a child protection authority for the protection of a child are not inconsistent with the Family Law Act.

Recommendation 12

States and Territories should be encouraged to amend their laws to make it possible for Children's and Youth Courts to make orders concerning residence and contact as an outcome of child protection proceedings brought by the child protection authority.

Recommendation 13

In child protection matters, duplication of effort between state and federal systems should be avoided, and a decision should be taken as early as possible whether a matter should proceed under the Family Law Act or under child welfare law with the consequence that there should be only one court dealing with the matter. This is to be known as the `One Court principle'.

Recommendation 14:

The Council of Community Services Ministers and Standing Committee of Attorneys-General should jointly appoint a committee consisting of representatives of the child protection authorities in States and Territories, Children's and Youth's Courts, the Family Court of Australia, the Family Court of Western Australia, the Federal Magistrates Service and the proposed Child Protection Service (the CPS). The Committee shall:

(a) promote cooperation in ensuring the effectiveness of the One Court principle;

(b) endeavour to agree on the circumstances when the child protection authority should take responsibility for presenting the child protection concerns either under child welfare legislation or by becoming a party to family law proceedings and when it is appropriate for the matter to be left to others, such as the parents, to resolve in private proceedings under the Family Law Act;

(c) review the operation of the various protocols between the Family Court and State and Territory child protection departments with a view to promoting as much consistency as is possible given the variations in state legislation and circumstances;

(d) encourage a high-level [sic] of commitment to the Protocols and their incorporation in all relevant agencies;

(e) explore all the practical issues of improving information sharing, examining how to better coordinate elements of the system and further refining the role of the CPS;

(f) keep under review and progressively enhance the various protocols and promote ongoing collaboration between the child protection authorities in the States and Territories and the Courts exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act.

(c) There are no terms of reference for the working group.

(d) The working group will examine recommendations 10-14 of the Family Law Council report and develop an officers' paper on the options for action to address cross-jurisdictional problems and identify whether there is a role for SCAG.

(e) There is no date by which the working group is to report.