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Every Issue

Cite as: (2002) 76(11) LIJ, p.73

Social justice issues such as domestic violence, social work practice and family assistance law are examined in this month’s reviews.

Domestic Violence in Australia: The legal response

Renata Alexander, Domestic Violence in Australia: The legal response (3rd edn), 2002, The Federation Press, paperback $33.

Do not be misled by the title of this book. Although a fantastic reference for lawyers, Domestic Violence in Australia: The legal response serves as a functional summary for social workers and anyone involved in the support of families disrupted by family violence.

The first chapter of the book is highly practical. There is a summary of the incidence, causes, and patterns of domestic violence. Ms Alexander looks at the mentality of victims as well as listing their practical needs. Various government allowances suitable for families in this situation are discussed. Phone numbers for crisis centres, help lines and specialised legal centres are provided.

Ms Alexander goes on to explain practically every option the law provides to victims of domestic violence. She also analyses their relative merits. For example, the Family Law Act (Cth) is equipped to deal with domestic violence. However, Ms Alexander explains why it is a less effective tool than the protection orders provided by state and territory legislation.

She helps readers to navigate the complex rules applying to protection or intervention orders in each state and territory. This summary would be extremely useful for community legal centres, as well as family law and generalised practitioners who are occasionally required to deal with these orders. It is a plain English summary with logical subheadings, also perfect for social workers.

Other non-specific remedies for domestic violence and their effectiveness are summarised, such as state injunctions and compensation.

Social workers and lawyers alike will find the summary of the role of police invaluable. For example, there is a summary of powers to enter into the home and make arrests.

For academics and lawyers, a helpful guide to the relationship between criminal law and domestic violence is given. The use of “battered woman syndrome” in evidence and the reluctance to prosecute in cases of family violence are touched on.



Douglas and Jones’s Administrative Law

Roger Douglas, Douglas and Jones’s Administrative Law (4th edn), 2002, The Federation Press, paperback $99.

Those lawyers who earned their degree from the University of Melbourne will recall that administrative law was once considered little more than an adjunct to constitutional law in some circles. But in recent years it has become a growth area of law, perhaps a reflection of the growing intrusion of government into the lives of private citizens in Australia.

This is a theme taken up by the author of the 4th edition of this text, Roger Douglas, himself a product of the University of Melbourne. Mr Douglas notes that administrative law has grown as a weapon against bureaucratic excess. He drolly notes that most excesses of government usually flow from a “ritualistic insistence on obedience to rules rather than attempts to defy them”.

The layout of the text is an interesting mixture of selected writings on areas of administrative law, case extracts and discussion papers. The collected writings are inter-linked with a textual narrative which deals with the various areas of administrative law under review. The authors are not timid in their description of various areas – “the legislation moved through Parliament with the speed of a somnolent tortoise before also succumbing to the 1996 dissolution” and “for all the excitement it aroused, appears to have made almost no impact at all, except insofar as it may have made governments more wary of signing international agreements” – examples of the sometimes entertaining style of the textual links.

The cases and materials chosen are both updated since the 1999 third edition and topical in parts. The MV Tampa case, Ruddock v Vadarlis warrants an extract in the section on “Grounds for review – exceeding powers”. The book is broken down in to 22 chapters (filling 826 pages) which are loosely grouped into a general history of administrative law, various types of bureaucratic excess such as corruption, methods of review, duties and rights of applicants, and judicial powers. The materials cover all jurisdictions of Australia, including a detailed analysis of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in NSW, but there is a preponderance of focus on the law of the Commonwealth.

The authors make some interesting observations in their preface as to their selection of materials – “most of our selections involve relatively recent decisions, and most are Australian . . . which reflects the degree to which the doctrine of precedent has been eroded over the past decade: it is hard to imagine a court accepting an argument because it appealed to an English divisional court in 1956 . . . Cases now seem better treated as materials which provide a guidance as to how courts are likely to behave than authoritative sources”.

It is perhaps this vein of realism which most underpins what presents as a useful textbook to serve both as an introduction to administrative law and as a reference tool in practice. As the area of administrative law continues to grow, then Douglas and Jones’s Administrative Law in its current and future editions will serve as a handy addition to the shelves of lawyers needing a critical examination of the current law in the area.



In the Shadow of the Law: Legal context of social work practice

Phillip A Swain (ed), In the Shadow of the Law: Legal context of social work practice (2nd edn), 2002, The Federation Press, paperback $49.50.

This collection of loosely related essays on topics generally relevant to social workers is a sound reference point for lawyers and their clients. It identifies the main issues and dilemmas clients experience in the various stages of conflict resolution. The various papers are authored by academics and social work practitioners from varying fields.

Many of the essays give an overall description of the practical implications of legislation and their sometimes fraught interaction with what the authors perceive to be the moral duties and responsibilities of social workers.

Case study examples highlight and illustrate methods of implementing suggestions for avoiding pitfalls or more effectively dealing with and helping clients. Suggestions and lists of practical tips are summarised in table form including state-based comparisons in the various jurisdictions.

The more theoretical pieces outline the legal basis and framework in which social workers operate, some with accompanying flow charts of legislation and guidance for users. Most of the papers use useful headings and include helpful lists of related web sites, as well as additional reading and comprehensive endnotes. Save for some editorial oversights, this collection of essays is a good first reference point with a target audience primarily of social workers but also lawyers and their clients.



Social Security and Family Assistance Law

Peter Sutherland with Allan Anforth, Social Security and Family Assistance Law, 2001, The Federation Press, paperback $88.

This annotated collection of social security legislation includes comprehensive but relevant and concise case extracts and commentary. There are six comprehensive sections, each devoted to different social security-related legislation. The chapter on the Social Security Act incorporates an extremely useful definition and interpretation section. This covers all possible scenarios and makes for an excellent reference guide when determining whether a particular set of circumstances creates social security eligibility. The dictionary and schedule sections conveniently outline the application and origins of the various pieces of legislation. This creates a useful guide for the reader to the relevant rules and their impact on clients’ applications.

All chapters liberally use accessible headings. The case and legislation extracts are clearly referenced, all chapters have accessible headings, and all issues are comprehensively referenced in the lengthy index.

While not at the glamour end of legal practice, this book provides excellent support for all those practitioners regularly advising clients in administration and family law.

This seems particularly relevant given the current hardline approach currently being taken by the Federal Court in relation to overpayments.




The LIJ is always looking to increase its database of book reviewers*. Keen readers with specialist knowledge who are willing to write 600-word reviews should contact Michele Frankeni, tel 9607 9349 or email

* Reviewers get to keep the copy of the book they review.


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