The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has published a supplement to its report on the Family Law system summarising the personal experiences of individuals who used the system and their opinions of it.
Protecting the anonymity of the contributors, the ALRC summary provides aggregated data of the number and nature of the stories it collected including complaints against operators and the system itself.
As part of its Inquiry, the ALRC established the Tell Us Your Story project — an online submission portal where individuals were encouraged to anonymously share personal stories of their experiences with the family law system.
In a statement the ALRC said the online portal encouraged participants to confidentially tell their story with the added option of complete anonymity, which many chose.
“We received 732 substantive individual contributions via this portal, covering a broad and confronting range of personal experiences with the family law system,” the Commission said.
“While the contributions are held in confidence by the ALRC and will not be published, these stories helped to inform our understanding of the real world impacts and consequences of the existing family law and the activities of associated institutions.”
It said the stories guided its recommendations for reform which ultimately centered on protecting the most vulnerable participants from harm.
“A number of these stories relayed dissatisfaction with particular actors within the family law system, and expressed frustration that their complaints about these actors had not been heard or acted upon,” ALRC said.
“In an effort to ensure that these voices are heard … we have produced a high-level, de-identified summary of the number of complaints made.”
It said however that the high number of submissions and the regularity of several common themes gave rise to serious concerns regarding the conduct of various actors in the family law system and the protection of vulnerable participants.
It found 504 complaints against the court system and procedures; 239 against lawyers, and 236 against judges.
A total of 193 complaints were made against the law itself; 106 against family report writers/family consultants; 64 against the Child Support Agency and 48 against the police.