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Victorian law reform: Have your say

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Cite as: July 2014 88 (07) LIJ, p.75

It is important that the views of the community are always included in the process of law reform.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission reviews of jury empanelment and of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 have been delivered to the Attorney-General in the past two months. Both reports will be available online after they have been tabled in Parliament.

The VLRC is currently inviting submissions for two projects: its review of oppression remedies for trading trusts, and the community law reform project review of the laws around photographing tenants’ possessions for advertising purposes. If you have experience or knowledge in these areas the VLRC would like to hear from you.

While reviewing and recommending changes to the law is the VLRC’s main function, it also has a community education role, as defined in the Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000. The VLRC’s education program has been active during the this year.

Staff visited more than 30 schools and colleges around Melbourne and in regional Victoria to discuss law reform, and almost 200 Year 12 students attended the Law Week Law Talks event in May, in partnership with the Victoria Law Foundation and the State Library of Victoria.

It is clear that many young people have an enthusiasm and passion for legal issues and law reform. In particular, they have a good grasp of the reasons why laws need to evolve according to the changing values of society and for reasons related to technology, and they see the value of formal law reform bodies, such as the VLRC which places public consultation at the centre of its deliberations.

One question students often ask us is: “How many of your recommendations result in changes to the law?”

While it is difficult to give a precise figure, there are a number of instances. The extensive review of assisted reproductive technology and adoption saw almost all VLRC recommendations adopted into a new Act, the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act (2008), which among other reforms removed discrimination against women previously unable to access IVF.

More recently, changes to the laws around jury directions (Jury Directions Act 2013 (Vic)) were shaped in part by the VLRC’s review. The reforms are intended to make the directions that judges give to juries briefer and less complex, shortening criminal trials and reducing the number of appeals, and helping juries do their job.

Since the 2013 community law reform project on birth registration and birth certificates, the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages has completed work on many of the VLRC recommendations, which ensures the processes for birth registration are clear and accessible for all Victorians.

Not all the VLRC reports result in changes to the law – at least, not immediately. However, in many cases the VLRC’s work contributes to ongoing discussion, not just in Victoria but in many parts of the world. To give one example, in 2010 the VLRC completed a major review of surveillance laws. Recent revelations about the activities of the National Security Agency, the American intelligence agency which has intercepted communications and tracked the movements of millions of people worldwide, show that debate continues about what controls should be placed on surveillance. The VLRC’s work will be a part of those conversations.

It is healthy that these issues continue to be discussed, as law is a living thing that must evolve and respond to changes in society. The VLRC’s work ensures that the views of the community are always included in that process.

To make a submission to a VLRC project or to propose a community law reform project visit www.lawreform.vic.gov.au.




Contributed by the VICTORIAN LAW REFORM COMMISSION. For further information ph 8608 7800 or see www.lawreform.vic.gov.au.

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