Policy Submission: Review of the Family Law System
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The Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) review of the family law system provides a valuable opportunity to explore ways for adults and children living with disability to shape reform, to ensure that the family law system meets the contemporary needs of all families. A human rights-based and inclusive family law system has the potential to bring about social, health and economic benefits for individuals, their families and their wider communities. In order to achieve such reform, this review must ensure that any legislative changes comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) as well as the National Disability Strategy. Policy-makers cannot identify the barriers to fulfilling children’s and parents’ rights if they do not hear from adults and children living with disability about their experiences with the family law system and their ideas for change.
In response to the ALRC’s discussion paper (October 2018) we make the following recommendations:
Proposal 2-2 should be amended to include the statement that ‘the national education and awareness campaign about the family law system should be co-designed or co-produced with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people from the LGBTIQ community and people living with disability and their families.’
The family law information package should include versions in Easy English as well as video and audio versions and be co-designed by people living with disability and their families.
Ensure the Families hubs are co-designed with children and parents living with disability and in particular parents living with an intellectual disability and staffed by well-trained, competent workers so that the hubs are inclusive and accessible to all.
That proposal 8-2 be amended to include commissioned research into the needs and experiences of people living with disability, including children and young people, in relation to domestic and family violence and the family law system.
Any supported decision making framework aligns with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the National Disability Strategy, and people living with cognitive disability guide the design and practice of research as well as the implementation of supported decision-making.
All levels of government need to take active steps through program design and implementation to ensure that mainstream services are inclusive of and adequately provide support to people living with disability. This is not the role of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
That an additional legislative safeguard be incorporated into the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) that ‘prohibits the involuntary or forced sterilisation of girls unless there is a serious threat to life.’
The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) should be amended to fully implement the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as it relates to parental rights.
That the ALRC proposes additional investment in peer support for parents who live with disability as a mechanism for building parenting capacity when and if needed.