The ACT has announced plans to establish a dedicated Family Violence Court, without telling the ACT Law Society beforehand.
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, ACT Law Society President Athol Opas said that while the Court will be a welcome addition in the ACT, the ACT government and Attorney-General Simon Corbell did not consult with the Law Society beforehand.
"Our preference has always been to be consulted on changes, particularly to court jurisdictions, including the announcement of new courts," Opas said. "However, it would seem that in this regard to the actual substance and function of the ACT Family Violence Court, I don't presently have concerns."
Corbell announced today (25 November) that legislation would be introduced into ACT Parliament in December to enable a dedicated Family Violence Court, operating under the auspices of the ACT Magistrates Court.
He said the government "consulted with a range of practitioners in the area".
"Legislating for a Family Violence Court will also recognise the great personal and social harm that results from domestic violence in our community," Corbell said.
The proposed Court would replace the family violence list, which has operated since 2000.
Opas said that as ACT Magistrates already hear domestic violence matters, the new Court would be a "change in name only".
However, he welcomed the symbolic nature of the proposed reform.
"The establishment of a dedicated ACT Family Violence Court recognises the significant importance of domestic violence as a significant factor in our community," he said. "To that extent, the establishment and name of the Court is a welcome change."
On 11 November the Australian and NSW Law Reform Commissions released a report that contained 187 recommendations for reform of domestic violence laws across all Australian jurisdictions, including the establishment or further development of specialised family courts.