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VLRC: Law reform for the community-minded

Every Issue

Cite as: (2008) 82(9) LIJ, p. 79

Legal practitioners are in a unique position to contribute to VLRC community law reform projects.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) is known to most readers of LIJ for its landmark reports on some of the most vexing challenges facing our legal system.

These reports have been on topics such as the law of assisted reproductive technology and adoption, family violence laws, defences to homicide, the law of abortion and the recent Civil Justice Review report.

Each of these major projects has been referred to the VLRC by the Attorney-General. Perhaps less well known is the ability of the VLRC to undertake community law reform projects.

These do not require a reference from the Attorney-General; instead they come from community members and organisations.

The aim of the community law reform program is to improve community involvement in law reform by opening access to people and communities who are not usually involved in law reform but who have good ideas about how the law could be improved.

This is not to say that legal practitioners cannot contribute. Practitioners, through contact with a wide range of clients, are in a unique position to identify where the law could be improved.

The key principle is that community law reform projects address legal issues that are of general community concern, but are small enough to have a relatively straight-
forward solution. In addition, community law reform projects must not require significant resources.

Some projects will lead to recommendations to government, others may take the form of publishing a discussion or research paper. Examples of previous projects include reforms to the Bail Act 1977 and a report on tenancy databases.

As readers of last month’s LIJ would be aware [“Clearing the path for helpful hounds”, August 2008 LIJ, page 79], the VLRC is currently undertaking a project on the law of assistance animals.

The VLRC looks at several factors when deciding which community law projects to pursue.

Generally, the VLRC can only complete two projects a year and in deciding whether to undertake a community law reform project it considers:

  • the area in which the law applies. The VLRC can only make recommendations about state laws;
  • the scope of the community law reform project – including the complexity of the legal issues raised, the amount of research required, and the amount of legal change that may be needed. The VLRC can only do community law reform projects that deal with relatively small changes to the law;
  • the amount of community consultation that will be needed to fully consider the issue. Complex and controversial subjects or areas of law that do not have strong community consensus will generally not fit within community law reform projects. These types of issues require significant consultation and public debate to resolve. This is better suited to a government initiated reference or inquiry;
  • the law reform proposal’s likely public benefit. The VLRC is interested in projects that will fix problems with the law that affect a significant proportion of the population or address problems faced by significantly disadvantaged members of the community; and
  • the prospects of success for the reform proposal. Community law reform projects must provide a simple, effective solution to an anomaly, inequity or gap in the law.

Other factors such as the scope of community involvement, resources required and avoiding duplication are also considered.

The VLRC welcomes law reform proposals from community organisations and members of the public.

If you would like to discuss your law reform proposal or if you have ideas about how the VLRC can better engage with the community, please ph 8619 8619. Or you can make your suggestion via

Contributed by the VICTORIAN LAW REFORM COMMISSION. For further information, ph 8619 8619 or visit the website


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