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Unsolicited: Letters to the editor

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Cite as: Jan/Feb 2015 89 (1/2) LIJ, p.08

Vote of confidence

Last November the state election showed that the democratic system in Australia works. There are many that disagree. I canvassed a wide range of people ranging from a professor at a Victorian university who voted for the sex party to an 18-year-old who voted but would not tell me who for.

The 18-year-old was the far more interesting voter. Not only did he register to vote but actually did so and thought about what his vote might mean before he voted. This person goes against the media’s wide held view that the youth are selfish, don’t care, don’t take an interest in democracy and are disenfranchised.

The seat I vote in is Prahran. Prahran is the most complicated in the state at around 12 square kilometres. Traditionally a Labor seat, electoral boundary changes have complicated things. The sitting member, Clem Newton-Brown had a healthy margin. One of the most knife edge seats, the vote at 100 percent count had Mr Newton-Brown with 40 votes ahead. The final check was the preferences. He lost.

As a member of the LIV I cannot speak for our peak body itself. However I watched as the previous government systematically changed law after law.

The electorate dismissed it. The LIV defended basic human rights during its tenure.

In the end, it is us that protects you against the state, corporations and other countries. In Victoria, this is particularly so. Senior counsel again and again give pro bono advice and appear in complex human rights cases launched from our Supreme Court.

As a lawyer, I can only thank my peak body and the Bar for extraordinary efforts to protect fundamental rights.

Finally, I have supported the PNET Cancer Foundation for five years. PNET is a charity that raises awareness of brain cancer in children – the single biggest killer of children. When taking instructions for a will, I urge all practitioners to consider this charity.

The 18-year-old survived to vote. Many do not.

STEPHEN WILCOX Wilcox and Associates

Whitlam’s legacy

Of particular interest to me is Professor Williams’ discussion on the family law reforms implemented by the Whitlam government (“Whitlam’s legacy of law reform” LIJ December 2014).

I agree with Professor Williams that changes to the Family Law Act 1975 “altered the basis upon which a marriage can be dissolved . . . The law was changed to a single, no fault ground for divorce . . .” In eliminating the requirement for divorce to be fault-based, the Whitlam government enabled the introduction of a system whereby married persons could now apply for divorce without the need to find blame. I often wonder what it must have been like to practise as a family law solicitor in an era where divorce required an element of and proof of fault. It must have been a difficult process for not only clients wanting to obtain a divorce but their legal representatives who would have had to deal with the evidentiary requirements in relation to the fault element.

Nowadays, divorce is an accepted norm within our society. Section 48(1) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) sets out one ground of divorce being that “the marriage has broken down irretrievably”. The court only has to be satisfied that the parties have been separated and lived separately and apart for a continuous period of not less than 12 months immediately following the filing of the divorce application (Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) s48(2)). Even if parties have lived under the same roof, they can still be seen to be separated under the one roof as long as they have lived as a separated couple (Family Law Act (cth) s49(2)).

I believe that there is no longer the focus that may once have existed on the divorce aspect of a relationship breakdown. Indeed, it is other issues that are at the forefront of practice as a family law solicitor. Often, divorce is seen as the last step to be taken in a process where other issues such as property and children’s issues play a more important role. It is these long-term issues that are most relevant to the resolution of any family law matter.

LOREDANA GIARRUSSO Michael Benjamin & Associates


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