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LIV President's Blog
December 16, 2011

Family law & the holiday season: does anybody ever win?

At this time of year, most of us are fortunately spending time with family. Unfortunately, it is also a busy time for the Family Court which experiences a sharp increase in disputes. Justice Kirsty Macmillan touched on this subject during her welcome speech to the Family Court earlier this week.
 
Justice Macmillan reminds us that family comes first
For many of us the reason for being is what keeps us going. For many of us, that spark is our family. This was beautifully brought to life in the newly-appointed judge to the Family Court Justice Macmillan's welcome speech. Her Honour started her speech with family; most new judges finish their welcome speech by mentioning family.

A jurisdiction where no one is a winner
Justice Macmillan also went onto to remark how important it was to ensure that families felt they had been heard and supported in a jurisdiction where no one was a winner. How true. The moment a couple walk into a court all we have is a story of ruination. Nothing good can come from a family in crisis - a family that is so dysfunctional that it has to leave its fate to a complete stranger- a judge.

“It is in this sense that the process and how we deal with the parties to the litigation is so important… [It is] important that they leave the court feeling that they have been listened to and able to move on with their lives. At the end of the day it is about them and their families not about us.” Justice Macmillan

What Her Honour promised was not a resolution with one clear victor, but a couple who truly felt listened to and respected at possibly the worst time of their lives. Her Honour's theory is about to be tested as she faces her first five day hearing involving self-represented litigants.

What is more important than a child’s happiness?
So, as we near the end of 2012, I ask you to spare a thought for all the families who are not happily sitting down to a table to break bread together, but polarized without anyone to hear their plea. And spare a thought for the public servants who try to determine who should be at which end of the festive occasion to hug and kiss their children.

Also spare a thought for the most vulnerable people in this entire equation - the children. How do we want them to remember this Christmas? A time of parents fighting or not speaking, or a festive season where parents were divided by nothing but geography. Ask yourself this - what is more important than a child's happiness?

As this is my last Presidents Blog, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy festive season and a safe new year with your loved ones.

 

 
December 8, 2011

Legislative year comes to a close

Yesterday marked the last sitting day of state parliament for the year, and the government took the opportunity to announce some, but not all, detail on its anti-corruption body the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC), which we now know will have widespread powers to investigate judges, public prosecutors, and more than 250,000 public sector employees. 

Parliament is scheduled to resume on 7 February and it already has a long list of outstanding issues to be carried into 2012. These include details of the Courts Executive Service (CES), detailed legislation pertaining to IBAC and who its inaugural chair will be, an announcement on the acting head of the Office of Police Integrity (OPI), appointments to establish the Special Investigations Monitor and the response to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee report into the Charter of Human Rights.

A year on, the government still has much work to do
The business of government does not go into hiatus with the holiday season. The LIV fully expects that Attorney General Robert Clark will continue to implement his agenda over the Parliamentary break. We have been pleased to work with the attorney general this year on several of his key priorities and we welcome his consultative approach.
 
Welcome further consultation on mandatory sentencing for young people
The LIV joins other legal and community groups in welcoming the government’s decision to consult further on mandatory sentencing for young offenders. We are pleased that the government has not rushed in legislation in this area, which we believe would not have achieved the reduction in crime rates and recidivism the government hopes to achieve.

Details still to come
It has not yet been possible to examine the detail of the Bill to establish the investigative powers of the new IBAC, which was introduced at the 11th hour yesterday by Minister responsible for the establishment of an anti-corruption commission, Andrew McIntosh. The LIV has been keen to ensure that there are safeguards to ensure that the IBAC’s coercive powers are exercised necessarily, appropriately and proportionately. 

We share the disappointment of outgoing head of the OPI, Michael Strong, that he was not consulted on the legislation. Mr Strong has been treated shabbily by the new government. We also note that the government is still to introduce further legislation to give IBAC its examinations and referral powers.

Attorney-general legislation
We are also waiting to hear more about the government’s proposed Courts Executive Service and how it will operate.

The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities is still in limbo and we are awaiting the government’s response to the all-party Parliamentary committee. Tomorrow is Human Rights Day. It would be timely for the government to guarantee our Charter’s survival.

Promises already met
We note that the government has responded to disquiet about the relationship between the Office of Public Prosecutions and the Director of Public Prosecutions. New legislation has been introduced and a new Director of Public Prosecutions appointed. We believe that the prosecutions arm of the state is in good hands.

We also note that legislation to establish a new freedom of information commissioner has also been introduced.
 
150 LIV submissions to government
The Coalition has been in office just over a year. There is much still remaining on the government’s agenda for next year. The LIV will continue to provide a sounding board to government and trusts that the current co-operative consultation will continue. Each year, we provide approximately 150 submissions to the state and federal governments, inquiries and other bodies. We could not do this without the support of all LIV members, and specifically, the hard-working members of the various LIV Sections.
 

 

 

 
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