Other justice and law reform activities

Other justice and law reform activities

In addition to our current strategic advocacy priorities, we are undertaking justice and law reform activities:

2016

2015

2014

2013

2016

Qualifying for the Disability Support Pension

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit is conducting an inquiry into the Auditor-General’s report Qualifying for the Disability Support Pension. Our submission to the Inquiry makes recommendations to improve the quality of Centrelink decision-making and ensure that people with disabilities who meet the eligibility requirements for the Disability Support Pension are assessed accurately and efficiently.

Read our Qualifying for the Disability Support Pension – Joint Committee of Public Accounts Inquiry submission on the Parliament of Australia website.

Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Bill 2016

If passed, the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Bill will establish new processes and requirements about the making of medical treatment decisions where the person being treated does not have decision-making capacity. Victoria Legal Aid recommends that further consultation be undertaken with consumers to ensure the Bill provides adequate safeguards and clear and effective procedures.

Read our Response to Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Bill (docx, 132.96 KB).

Read our Briefing note – Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Bill 2016 (docx, 135.38 KB).

Infrastructure Victoria's draft 30-year infrastructure strategy

Infrastructure Victoria is developing a 30-year strategy for Victoria’s infrastructure needs, including consideration of how to reduce demand on justice infrastructure and how to provide vulnerable people with access to housing. Victoria Legal Aid submitted on the draft strategy, with a focus on ensuring the strategy will support the needs of disadvantaged Victorians into the future. We advocated for the role of legal assistance in integrated service delivery models, the inclusion of justice reinvestment principles and programs, appropriate recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, ensuring disadvantaged tenants can sustain their tenancies, and appropriate mental health care facilities to meet current demands.

Read our Submission to Infrastructure Victoria’s 30-year strategy (docx, 735.15 KB).

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Royal Commission sought feedback on their consultation paper on Criminal Justice. The issues examined in the paper included third-party offences, delays in prosecutions, evidence of victims and survivors, tendency and coincidence evidence and joint trials, appeals and post-sentencing issues. Victoria Legal Aid provided a written response to the consultation paper.

Read Response to Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Consultation Paper on Criminal Justice (docx, 205.87 KB).

Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016 – social security for forensic patients

The Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill currently before the House of Representatives proposes to discontinue income support for people who are in psychiatric confinement and have been charged with a 'serious offence' (forensic patients). These measures were previously introduced in the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 and subject to inquiry by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee. If introduced, these measures will have a significant and detrimental impact on the rehabilitation and reintegration of forensic patients in Victoria.

Read Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016 – social security for forensic patients (docx, 96.92 KB).

Centre for Innovative Justice

Victoria Legal Aid recently made a submission to the ‘Enabling Justice Project Consultation Paper: People living with an acquired brain injury using their experiences of the criminal justice system to achieve systemic change’ issued by the Centre for Innovative Justice.

Read our Submission in response to the Enabling Justice Project Consultation Paper. (doc, 220.5 KB)

Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference

Our Executive Director, Criminal Law Services, Helen Fatourous presented a paper at the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference, 22 July 2016.

Read Is our youth justice system really broken? (docx, 139.28 KB)

Department of Justice and Regulation

The Department of Justice and Regulation sought feedback on their discussion paper, Equity and fairness in jury selection. The discussion paper included proposals relating to blind and deaf jurors, peremptory challenges and challenges for cause. Victoria Legal Aid provided a written response to the discussion paper which has been captured in our publicly available submission.

Read our Response to the Department of Justice and Regulation's equity and fairness in jury selection submission (docx, 172.83 KB)

Dispute Resolution Branch, Department of Justice and Regulation submissions

The Department of Justice and Regulation, through consultation with the Appeals Cost Board, developed a range of possible reforms to the Appeal Costs Act 1998. The Department sought input from relevant stakeholders on four specific amendments to the Act. Victoria Legal Aid provided a written submission to the review addressing these proposed amendments.

Read our Submission to the Department of Justice and Regulation's review of the Appeal Costs Act 1998 (docx, 170.58 KB).

National Disability Advocacy Program Review submissions

The Department of Social Services is reviewing the National Disability Advocacy Program. Together with National Legal Aid, we made a submission to the review advocating for the need for access to legal services for applicants appealing decisions of the National Disability Insurance Agency to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Read our Submission to the review of the National Disability Advocacy Program (docx, 43.2 KB).

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Fees) Regulations

Victoria Legal Aid recently made a submission to a proposed new fee structure for the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Read our Submission to VCAT responding to the Regulatory Impact Statement and proposed regulations (docx, 137.03 KB).

Residential Tenancies Act Review submissions

In June 2015 the Victorian Government announced a major review of the Residential Tenancies Act. Our submissions to the review call for reform to the law to ensure that tenancies are managed sustainably and evictions only occur as a last resort.

It is anticipated that the review will be completed by early to mid-2018.

Read our Residential Tenancies Act Review alternate forms of tenure – September 2016 (docx, 118.22 KB)

Read our Residential Tenancies Act Review dispute resolution submission – July 2016 (docx, 157.16 KB)

Read our Residential Tenancies Act Review – Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants (docx, 146.6 KB)

Read our Residential Tenancies Act Review – Rent, Bond and Other Charges Submission (docx, 57.08 KB)

Read our Residential Tenancies Act Review – Regulation of property conditions in the rental market (docx, 127.66 KB)

Victorian inquiry into the indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment

On 2 December 2015 the Senate Community Affairs References Committee announced a Commonwealth inquiry in relation to indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment in Australia. Victoria Legal Aid provided a written submission and oral evidence to the inquiry.

Read our Submission to senate inquiry into the indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment (docx, 94.39 KB).

Victorian Gender Equality Strategy – consultation submission

Our submission to the Victorian Government’s Victorian Gender Equality Strategy Consultation outlines that in order to address gender inequality, Victoria must improve the legal and policy response to the parental responsibilities of workers and sex discrimination in the workplace.

Read our Victorian Gender Equality Strategy – consultation submission (docx, 106.61 KB)

Sentencing guidance reference submission

In our submission to the Sentencing Advisory Council on effective mechanisms for sentencing guidance, we focus on the need for evidence-based decision making. We question whether there is a need for a new form of legislative guidance, and whether strategies like mandatory sentencing are capable of improving public confidence and consistency of sentencing approach. We argue that on the evidence, schemes that limit judicial discretion do not work, are unjust, and disproportionately impact the disadvantaged.

Our experience is that judicial discretion is central to the administration of justice. If the aim is to improve consistency and public confidence, we argue that guideline judgments are likely to be most effective, together with non-legislative measures such as community education and research.

Read our Sentencing guidance reference submission (docx, 212.07 KB).

2015

Residential Tenancies Act Review submissions

In June 2015 the Victorian Government announced a major review of the Residential Tenancies Act. Our submissions to the review call for reform to the law to ensure that tenancies are managed sustainably and evictions only occur as a last resort.

It is anticipated that the review will be completed by early to mid-2018.

Read our Residential Tenancies Act Review – Security of Tenure submission (docx, 146.32 KB)

Read our Residential Tenancies Act Review – Laying the Groundwork submission (docx, 126.75 KB)

Willing to Work Inquiry – age and disability discrimination

Our submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Willing to Work Inquiry highlights the changes required to Commonwealth discrimination laws to effectively address age and disability discrimination.

Read our Willing to Work submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission (docx, 249.82 KB).

The inquiry will report on its findings and recommendations by July 2016.

Victorian inquiry into the labour hire industry and insecure work

Our submission to the Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work makes recommendations to increase protections for workers subject to labour hire arrangements and other forms of insecure employment, particularly women workers, migrant workers, workers with disability and victims of family violence.

Read our Victorian inquiry into the labour hire industry and insecure work submission (docx, 64.46 KB).

The inquiry is due to release its final report by 31 July 2016.

Victims of crime in the criminal trial process

In our submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission on Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process we look at how victims of crime can be more meaningfully supported and engaged in criminal trial processes, and make recommendations to help provide them with improved access to justice.

Read our Victims of crime in the criminal trial process submission (docx, 170.77 KB)

Charter of Human Rights

Our submission to the 2015 Review of the Charter of Human Rights draws on our practical experience in helping vulnerable and marginalised people enforce their rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.

We describe how we have successfully used the charter to help our clients who have had their human rights breached. We also identify opportunities to strengthen and improve the charter to make it more accessible and enforceable.

Read our Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities submission (docx, 190.44 KB)

The full report and summary report are now available. The report picks up many of our recommendations to make the Charter more effective in protecting the rights of Victorians.

National ice action strategy

In our submission to the National Ice Taskforce we present the experience of our staff in helping clients who use crystal methamphetamine. We make recommendations about reducing the impact of ice use on our clients, their families and the community.

Read our National Ice Taskforce submission (docx, 415.87 KB)

The taskforce will develop a national ice action strategy by the end of 2015.

Proposed amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010

Our submission to the Attorney-General highlights the changes required to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) to ensure that it operates fairly and to overcome a major shortcoming, being its reliance on individual complainants for enforcement.

Read our Proposed amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (doc, 227.5 KB)

August 2016 update – the religious exceptions in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) allow broad discrimination on the basis of sexuality, gender identity, marital status, parental status and religion. Exceptions to the Act occur when they conform with religious beliefs or where they are ‘reasonably necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of the religion’. For instance, a religious school could be allowed to discriminate against a gardener because the gardener has been divorced or are is a same-sex relationship, even though this is irrelevant to their role. Reforms announced by the government will reinstate the original wording of religious exceptions in the Act. This will limit exceptions to situations where conforming with religious beliefs is a requirement of employment.

Inquiry into the Workplace Relations framework

In our submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into the Workplace Relations framework we identify ways to improve existing workplace protections, based on our experience helping vulnerable employees with discrimination claims.

Read our Submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into the Workplace Relations framework (doc, 371.5 KB)

The report is expected to be tabled by the end of 2015.

In our supplementary submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into the Workplace Relations framework we respond to the Commission's draft report, particularly its recommendation to cap compensation, and recommend ways to better protect migrant workers.

Read our Supplementary submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into the Workplace Relations Framework (docx, 277.69 KB)

2014

Parliamentary inquiry into the Child Support Program

In our submission to the Parliamentary inquiry into the Child Support Program we outline some of the challenges with the child support system experienced by both parents who provide and receive child support. We make some suggestions to better support vulnerable parents to meet their obligations and reduce the complexity of the scheme.

Read our Submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Inquiry into the Child Support Program (doc, 339.5 KB)

*Note: page 2 includes figures updated since the submission was accepted by the inquiry.

The Standing Committee expects to table its report in 2015.

Response to Productivity Commission draft report into Access to Justice Arrangements

Our submission focuses on unmet civil legal need, the effectiveness of the mixed model of legal assistance services, Community Legal Centre administration and reform in Victoria and the valuable role of independent boards in service design and delivery.

Read our Response to Productivity Commission draft report into Access to Justice Arrangements (doc, 348.5 KB)

Review of sexual offences

In our submission to the Review of sexual offences we make recommendations that would simplify the law of rape, and which are aimed at balancing the rights of complainants and accused in this challenging area of the law.

Read our Review of sexual offences (doc, 188.5 KB)

The Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Act 2014 was passed in October 2014.

2013

Productivity Commission inquiry into Access to Justice Arrangements

In our submission, we highlight the important role that the legal assistance sector plays in providing access to justice. Our submission also described how effective strategic advocacy is cost effective and can deliver lasting benefits for the community.

Read our Submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into Access to Justice (doc, 364.5 KB)

The Access to Justice Arrangements Inquiry report was released in December 2014.

Paid Parental Leave Scheme Act

In our submission to the Commonwealth Government review of the Act we highlighted the way in which discrimination in employment on the basis of pregnancy is a significant bar to women accessing paid parental leave entitlements.

Read our Submission to the Commonwealth Government review of the Paid Parental Leave Scheme Act 2010 (doc, 276.5 KB)

The Paid parental leave review report was released in June 2014.