This page provides information about how Victorian law has changed as a result of the Commission’s inquiries. Since 2001, the Commission has commenced 44 inquiries. Of those that have been completed, around 75 per cent have been implemented, in whole or in part.
This list can be ordered by date or title – click on the arrows at the top of the ‘Date’ or ‘Title’ columns. The date refers to the year that the report was completed and tabled in Parliament.
The two right columns are where you will find information about the relevant law and what has changed. You can also click on the title of the project in the left column to go to the relevant project page, with all associated publications.
12 November 2021: Victorian Government announced it would implement the Commission’s recommendations on affirmative consent and stealthing. It is considering all the other recommendations. [Victoria Government Media Release]
15 February 2022: Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Procedure Disclosure and Other Matters) Bill 2021 assented. This bill was introduced following on from the Royal Commission into Police Informants and amends the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 to ensure informant’s disclosure obligations to the DPP apply regardless of claims of privilege or public interest or statutory immunity (VLRC recommendation 33). The amending act requires police to complete a disclosure certificate identifying information that has been withheld from the brief of evidence, ensuring parties are aware and can seek an order from the court to have the material disclosed (Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants Recommendation #63). Unlike the Royal Commission, the VLRC did not recommend disclosure certificates or that the material subject to these claims be produced, instead recommending informants to give sworn evidence re disclosure.
26 October 2021: Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Procedure Disclosure and Other Matters) Bill 2021 introduced following on from the Royal Commission into Police Informants.
30 November 2020: Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants Final Report published. The report referred to the VLRC Committals Report among many of its recommendations. Like the VLRC, the Royal Commission noted the need for better Vic Pol/DPP cooperation on disclosure, but while VLRC recommended earlier involvement of the DPP, the Royal Commission said the DPP’s Policy should be amended to ‘guide and facilitate discussion of disclosure issues between police and DPP’.
A note on disclosure certificates: VLRC recommended against disclosure certificates, the Royal Commission endorsed disclosure certificates (Rec #63) and the Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Procedure Disclosure and Other Matters) Bill 2021 implements this recommendation (Assented 15/2/2022).
The Royal Commission said ‘The VLRC recommended other measures aimed at strengthening police disclosure to the DPP and the accused person in cases where police withhold relevant material on the basis of claims of PII, legal professional privilege or a statutory prohibition. The Commission notes that, in this regard, the goals and principles underlying the VLRC’s recommendations and this Commission’s recommendations are broadly aligned.’ (ch 14, p 45)
The Royal Commission said that any changes to court powers relating to disclosure should only be considered in the context of any broader reforms introduced in response to our Committals report (ch 14, p 48). The Royal Commission recommended the Vic Gov review court powers to make non-disclosure orders within 6 months of its report (recommendation 67).
17 Nov 2020: Justice Legislation Amendment (Supporting Victims and Other Matters) assented. Amends the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act which VLRC described as a complex and confusing piece of legislation in need of reform and modernisation. Reforms relating to adult victim-survivors are consistent with recommendations of the VLRC Contempt of Court Report: In cases cases where victim-survivors do not have the capacity to provide permission themselves, the court will retain a role in granting permission for publication.
7 June 2022: Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance Scheme) Bill 2022 assented to. The Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) will be replaced with an administrative financial assistance scheme, as recommended by VLRC in 2018. Applications will be made without a hearing or the need to face perpetrators, reflecting a trauma informed model to assist victims in their recovery from acts of violence. Funding for the scheme was included in the Victorian Budget 2022/23 (Paper No. 3). The scheme is expected to become operational in the second half of 2023. View Act 21/2022.
16 March 2022: Workplace Safety Legislation and Other Matters Amendment Act 2022 amends the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 inserting the provision that a person must not appear or be heard by the Victims of Crime assistance Tribunal if person committed or alleged to have committed an offence under ss 20, 21 and 21A of the Crimes Act 1958, an act of violence involving a sexual offence or the common law of rape or assault with intent to rape or family violence. In its review the VLRC proposed that perpetrator notification and appearance provisions be removed, reflecting a trauma-informed approach that prioritises victims’ safety and wellbeing.
20 May 2021: [Budget Press Release] Victorian Government pledged to replace the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal with a more accessible and trauma-informed financial assistance scheme.
10 June 2020: Crimes Amendment (Manslaughter and Related Offences) Bill assented. The legislation does not directly relate to VLRC’s report, but it does amend the Crimes Act 1958 to create a new offence of homicide by firearm. VLRC’s Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996: Consultation Paper notes that the A.C.T Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance) Act 2016 (ACT) sets out a range of family violence offences, including arson, property damage, burglary, offences involving firearms, driving offences and breach of family violence protection order. There is an increasing number of victims of family violence who have been killed from the discharge of a firearm. The aim of the bill is for future offenders to receive more appropriate sentences.
2018: The Government accepted all of the Commission’s recommendations in principle and committed to progress these reforms in the next term of government.
30 June 2020 – Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendments Act 2020 assented (commenced 1/7/20) The act amends section 33ZDA (Group costs orders) in the Supreme Court Act 1986 Part 4A to provide the Supreme Court with the power to order, on application by a representative plaintiff, a common fund for a litigation services fee, where the fee is calculated as a percentage of any recovered amount and liability for payment is shared by all class members. This was a key VLRC recommendation (Recommendation 8).
5 April 2022: Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 introduced to Parliament to enable integrated birth certificates [not yet passed].
10 March 2022: Victorian Government pledges funding to roll out optional integrated birth certificates for adopted Victorians. (Recommendation 24)
8 March 2022: Government responds to the Victorian Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into Responses to Historical Forced Adoption in Victoria. Some VLRC recommendations reiterated in the committeee’s original report and responded to in the Government’s response.
Central to VLRC’s recommendations was the need for a new Adoption Act (not piecemeal reform) with a centralised approach to adoption services. While the Victorian Government responded in the aforementioned report that further inquiries were needed for significant legislative change, the transition of adoption services from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Justice and Community Safety has modernised adoption practices.
The Victorian Government report also noted:
– establishing the identity of the father is undertaken at the time of options counselling and before consent is signed so that his consent to the adoption is obtained and his details are listed on the birth certificate and in the adoption records for the child’s future knowledge. VLRC recommended the Adoption Act should require that, where the father has not been identified, the Secretary must take reasonable steps, as specified in the Regulations, to establish the identity of the father (recommendation 31).
– where a parent under 18 is considering relinquishing their child, the options counsellor is required to undertake a capacity assessment. According to the Government, the options counsellor is an appropriately qualified and independent person. In 2017 VLRC found that there was no guidance about the process that should be used to assess whether a young parent is competent to give consent to the adoption of their child and recommended the Adoption Act should require that, if a parent under 18 years of age is considering giving consent to the adoption of their child, the Secretary must have a ‘qualified person’ assess, and provide a report on, the parent’s capacity to provide consent. The ‘qualified person’ must not be the same person who is providing or will provide counselling to the parent (recommendation 39).
1 October 2021: Secretary of the Department of Justice and Community Safety ceased to authorise adoption agencies under the Adoption Act 1984. Adoption Services, as the Secretary’s delegate, became the guardian of all children available for adoption in Victoria, deciding which adoptive families are approved to adopt, and releasing records and information to applicants for adoption information. Agencies continue to provide a range of services to children and families, such as counselling to parents considering placing their child for adoption, assessing people wanting to adopt and post placement supervision and support, but they do so as funded service providers. VLRC recommended the new act should enable the Secretary to approve agencies to carry out discrete, rather than all, adoption services and should establish a central statewide register of approved applicants which the Secretary and principal officers must consult when selecting prospective adoptive parents (recommendation 59).
July 2019: Responsibility for Adoption Services transitioned to the Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS). This transition included modernising practices to ensure that applicants understand the information contained in their records and gauge their need for further support. While VLRC’s broader recommendation for a new access to information scheme was not adopted, the change enabled the department to improve adoption data reporting with ongoing information technology system improvements due to be completed in January 2022, that will enable the Department of Justice and Community Safety to accurately maintain and report adoption data (see Govt Response to Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into Responses to Historical Forced Adoptions in Victoria). VLRC recommended the Adoption Act should require the Secretary to maintain, and report annually, comprehensive, reliable, consistent statewide data on the operation and delivery of adoption services, including support and mediation services (recommendation 72c), and replace the requirement to be interviewed by a counsellor prior to accessing adoption information with an obligation on the Secretary to offer of counselling and advice if information could reasonably be expected to be distressing (recommendation 87).
Note: Recommendation 70: Introduce a no-fee, no-fault procedure for applications to discharge an adoption order. March 2022- the Government noted that they will engage with the County Court and Court Services Victoria to discuss implementation of this recommendation, which may involve a change to existing court practice. Support for this recommendation is subject to further consideration by government as part of a future budget process.
18 May 2021 – Cemeteries and Crematoria Amendment Bill 2021 (VIC) Assented. Implementation scheduled from 1 March 2022 (unless proclaimed earlier). The amendment inserts a new Division 2A of Part 6 of the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2003 (VIC). The proposed amendments are intended to capture circumstances where the exercise of a right of interment will be particularly painful or difficult for a person affected by a serious crime committed by the holder of a right of interment, or for a person affected by a death caused by a person who is also deceased, but whose relative or associate holds that right. In VLRC’s inquiry the extent to which a deceased person’s wishes about their funeral, burial or cremation should be legally binding were considered. The Commission stated that people should be able to leave binding funeral and burial instructions and/or appoint a funeral and burial agent. If a person does not leave instructions, the person with the right to control their funeral and burial arrangements should be allowed to make any arrangements, provided they are not unlawful or contrary to the known beliefs or values of the deceased. This Act does not enable legally binding burial instructions. However it goes some way to disallowing persons to be buried near a person affected by their behaviour – eg a relevant offender, someone responsible for their death or a relative or associate of the offender. An affected person can now apply to the Secretary (Dept of Health) for a variation or surrender of the right of interment. Note, the person with the right of interment is the person with near-absolute control over a burial plot and memorial, it’s usually the person who paid for the plot.
6 October 2015 – The Victorian Government announced that it fully accepted 40 of the Commission’s recommendations and accepted two in principle. It announced that it would legalise access to medicinal cannabis in exceptional circumstances from 2017.
12 April 2016 – The Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016 (Vic) passed, enabling access to medicinal cannabis to defined groups of patients, including
(a) a patient who—
(i) is under 18 years of age; and
(ii) experiences severe seizures resulting from an epileptic condition in respect of which other treatment options have not proved effective or have generated intolerable side effects; and
(iii) meets the prescribed criteria in respect of that condition (if any);
(b) a patient who—
(i) has a prescribed medical condition; and
(ii) meets the prescribed criteria in respect of that condition (if any);
28 September 2016 – Access to Medicinal Cannabis Regulations 2016 (Vic) passed, prescribing who can dispense medicinal cannabis and what information needs to kept on the approved medicinal cannabis product, and practitioner authorisations registers. Also regulated is the information to be specified in authorising medicinal cannabis access.
For more information, see the Office of Medicinal Cannabis website.
26 September 2017 – Justice Legislation Amendment (Protective Services Officers and Other Matters) Act 2017 regulated the scrap metal industry, including the banning of cash payments.
30 May 2018 – Cash for scrap metal ban came into effect and on 27 October 2016 the final report of the Victorian Inquiry into Labour Hire and Insecure Work was tabled in Parliament. The Government responded with support to regulate the industry, including setting up a licensing scheme to ensure all labour hire operators are licensed.
24 March 2022: Justice Legislation Amendment (Trial by Judge Alone and Other Matters) Bill 2022 (Vic) – Passed. Bill implements recommendation 25 (a) , requiring prosecution to notify the victim of their right to appear and the availability of legal assistance in relation to an application to access and use their confidential communications. The court must not grant leave to produce protected evidence unless the court is satisfied that the confider has had reasonable opportunity to obtain legal advice.
15 February 2022: Justice Legislation Amendment (Criminal Procedure Disclosure and Other Matters) Bill 2021 (Vic). – Passed. The act implements recommendations 20, and 47, amending the Victims Charter Act to mandate the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) to notify crime victims of their right to make a victim impact statement at an offender’s sentencing and to compel the OPP and other crime agencies to inform victims of their right to compensation or restitution from a convicted offender, and to refer them to available legal help.
4 November 2021: Department of Justice and Community Safety publish their review: Improving Victim’s Experiences in Summary Proceedings Final Report
11 September 2018: Victims and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2018 implements recommendations 1, 7(a), 8, 15, 16, 18, 20, 24, 9, 27, 30, 31, 49. Broadly, the amending act facilitates a role for intermediaries in court processes, disallowing improper questions in court, and a recognition that victims of crimes have an inherent interest in the response to a crime by the criminal justice system. The DPP is now required to take all reasonable steps to advise a victim of the details of the criminal proceeding and seek victim’s views regarding modifying charges, discontinuing prosecution or an appeal. A complaints system for victims was set up relating to investigatory agency, prosecuting agency and victims’ services agencies. Empowers the Victims of Crime Commissioner was also empowered to investigate complaints from victims. SAC also published a report on financial reparation of victims and whether orders should be enforced by the state. Providing judicial officers with a guide on how to respond to the needs and interests of victims in the courtroom was also a key recommendation of the report. In 2019 the Judicial College of Victoria published ‘Victims of Crime in the Courtroom: A Guide’.
11 Sept 2018: Victims and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2018 amended the Victims’ Charter Act 2006, requiring the A-G to cause a review to be conducted into how to improve victims’ experience in summary proceedings. VLRC suggested in the Role of Victims of Crime in the Criminal Process final report that many of the recommendations are relevant to criminal cases in the Magistrates’ Court. “If the recommendations are applied to the Magistrates’ Court’s jurisdiction, further consideration of the resourcing, cost and time implications would be required.” The review was conducted in 2021 (see Nov 2021 review).
27 February 2018: Justice Legislation Amendment (Victims) Act 2018 introduces a role for intermediaries in court process (Recommendation 30 and 31).
25 September 2018: Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendment Act 2018 received royal assent. The Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendment Act 2018 ensures that courts disallow improper questions, such as those that are misleading or confusing, harassing, intimidating, humiliating or repetitive (Recommendation 18).
11 September 2018: Victims and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2018 received royal assent. Victims and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2018 implements a number of recommendations made by the Commission in its report on Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process, including:
- implementing Recommendation 1, inserting a paragraph into the Victims’ Charter Act 2006 to recognise that a victim of crime has an inherent interest in the response by the criminal justice system to that crime
- requiring investigatory agencies, prosecuting agencies and victims’ services agencies to respect the rights and entitlements of victims as participants in proceedings; in particular the needs of victims in rural and regional locations (Recommendations 15 and 16)
- requiring the Department of Public Prosecutions to take all reasonable steps to advise a victim of the details of criminal proceedings and the progress of a prosecution (Recommendation 20); and to seek a victim’s views regarding modifying charges, discontinuing a prosecution, or an appeal (Recommendation 24); and to provide reasons for decisions to a victim (Recommendation 9)
- requiring the prosecuting agency to provide victims with information about the contents of a victim impact statement that may be ruled inadmissible (Recommendation 27)
- setting up a complaints system for victims, relating to investigatory agency, prosecuting agency and victims’ services agencies (Recommendation 7(a)
- empowering the Victims of Crime Commissioner to investigate complaints from victims (Recommendation 8).
October 2018: Sentencing Advisory Council released the Restitution and Compensation Orders Report (Recommendation 49)
1 August 2019: Judicial College of Victoria publishes Victims of Crime in the Courtroom: A Guide for Judicial Officers
18 September 2018, the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2018 received royal assent. The bill states the right of rental providers to enter the property to produce advertising images provided they give the tenant seven days notice (Recommendation 5). The renter may object to the images being produced if they contain valuable or sensitive items, or may identify a person at risk of family violence. The renter has the right to review and approve images of sensitive and valuable items, and these images can’t be used without the renter’s consent (Recommendation 2).
Recommendations 2-6, 8, 9, 10, 12(partly), 15 implemented. Peremptory challenges and stand asides have been retained, the number of challenges available to criminal trials has been reduced to three in criminal trials, or two each if multiple defendants and two each in civil trials. The number of stand asides available to the crown has also been reduced and a prospective juror stood aside by the Crown is permanently removed from the ballot for that trial. It is no longer required for jurors to ‘parade’ before the accused and a challenge can be made by the accused, their lawyer or their lawyer’s clerk. Guidance on the empanelment of additional jurors now available in s23 (2) Juries Act.
August 2017: Justice Legislation Amendment (Court Security, Juries and Other Matters) Act 2017 amends the Juries Act 2000 to reduce the number of peremptory challenges to prospective jurors in criminal and civil trials.
August 2017: Jury Directions and Other Acts Amendment Act 2017 amended the Juries Act 2000 to the effect that it is no longer necessary for jurors to ‘parade’ in front of an accused during the empanelment process.
23 March 2021: Justice Legislation Amendment (System Enhancements and Other Matters) Act 2021 (temporary Covid measure). This amends the Crimes and Mental Impairment Act 1997 (Vic) which, from 26 April 2021, enables judges to determine a person’s fitness to stand trial (recommendation 51). The Act also amends the Juries Act 2000 to enable attendance via video link “a pool is not required to be physically present”(recommendation 96).
18 March 2020: Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Amendment Bill 2020 (Legislative Assembly, 2nd Reading) moved. If passed the bill would insert a set of statutory principles into the CMIA to guide courts, decision makers and agencies when dealing with persons subject to the CMIA. The bill would also incorporate VLRC recommendations to improve the process of review of supervision orders.
20 October 2018: Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Amendment Bill 2016, which would have implemented many recommendations of the VLRC’s 2014 report, lapsed.
The Commission’s review coincided with a review by Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages of its services.
In its media release welcoming the Commission’s report, the Government announced that work was being done by the Registry on many of the Commission’s recommendations including:
- providing additional information in birth registration forms, including clarifying what information will be printed on the birth certificate
- additional protections for identifying information where the applicant is at risk of family violence
- the development of an online system for parents to register births;
- a new page on the Registry website providing information about Koori services
- revisions to proof of identity requirements when registering a birth
- the development of guidelines for waiving of certificate feel.
In 2017 the BDM commenced the Coolamon strategy, which aims to increase access to BDM’s services by Victoria’s Koori community. This is in response to the Commission’s finding that access to BDM’s services, including birth certificates, tended to be lower in the Koori community. https://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/koori-services/coolamon-strategy-2017-18
Part 1 (Preliminary) and Part 6 (Surrogacy) came into operation on 30 October 2014. The remaining provisions of the Justice Legislation Amendment (Succession and Surrogacy) Act 2015 came into operation on 1 July 2015. The main purpose of the Act is to amend the Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic) in relation to:
- family provision claims
- the rules for the payment of debts of an estate
- the administration of small estates, and
- to amend the court authorised wills scheme in the Wills Act 1997.
Other amendments have been made in relation to surrogacy law. The aim of the Act is to ensure that Victorian succession laws operate justly, fairly and in accordance with community expectations in relation to the way that property is dealt with after a person dies. The Act implements a number of recommendations from the Commission’s final report, including The Commission’s recommendations on statutory wills, small estates and the payment of debts, among others.
In 2017 the Administration and Probate and Other Acts Amendment (Succession and Related Matters) Act 2017 (Vic) [assented 19/9/17] adopted recommendations made in the Commission’s report to regulate the role of legal practitioners as executors, and the fees and commission they can charge. Recommendations adopted include those on intestacy and ademption, and the provision that executors can only receive fees or commissions with the consent of each interested beneficiary. The Supreme Court also has the power to review and reduce commissions considered excessive.
Recommendations 19, 26, 41, 32, 54, 55, 57-59, 60, 61-63 were implemented. These involved reporting conditions and obligations imposed on offenders who are under the age of 18, refining the obligation for sex offenders to report contact with children and the definition of ‘contact’, information sharing options, protocols and procedures for police and DHS, including a penalty for disclosure by an unauthorised person, and rules around the disclosure of information to a parent or carer.
Sex Offenders Registration Amendment Act 2014 [8 of 79 recs] The Sex Offenders Registration Amendment Act 2014 implements or partially implements 8 of the Commission’s 79 reform recommendations. In summary, the recommendations were to:
- Give the Court the power to modify reporting conditions and obligations imposed on registered offenders who are under the age of 18 (Recommendation 19; see s 5)
- Allow the Chief Commissioner to suspend the reporting obligations of a person who is unable to comply because of physical or cognitive impairment (Recommendation 26; Note the Act allows a broader discretion in view of the risk to the sexual safety of the person or the community See s 45A).
- Registered sex offenders should be required to report the names, ages and addresses of any children with whom they have ‘contact’ and the means of contacting those children (Recommendation 41 ; See s 6(1))
- Clarify which ‘contact’ a registered sex offender must report (Recommendation 32; s4A and see also s 7(1)(4)-removal of reference to ‘unsupervised contact’ and s 23).
- Provide clear legislative authority to the Chief Commissioner of Police and the Secretaries of the Department of Justice and Regulation and Department of Human Services to share information (Recommendations 55-55; See s 42B and sS42C)
- Allow information about a registered offender to be given to a parent or carer to protect a particular child (Recommendation 57-59). The Act empowers the Secretary of DHS or an ‘authorised person’ to disclose information ‘to any other person’ if disclosure is ‘in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of the child referred to in the information’ (s 42D). Disclosure is not restricted to a guardian but the information has to concern an identified child.)
In September 2014 the Victorian Parliament passed amendments to the Crimes Act 1958 and the Summary Offences Act 1966 that change the law about sexting. The laws create two new offences of ‘distribution of an intimate image’ and ‘threat to distribute an intimate image’. The new laws also introduce certain exceptions to child pornography offences so that young people under 18 years of age are not inappropriately prosecuted or added to the sex offenders register for consensual non-exploitative sexting.
In January 2011, shortly after the Commission’s report was tabled, the government commissioned a further inquiry into child protection, known as the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry. The terms of reference for that inquiry required consideration of ‘possible changes to the processes of the courts referencing the recent work of and options put forward by the Victorian Law Reform Commission.’
The Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children report was tabled on in February 2012. The report specifically endorsed some of the Commission’s recommendations, in particular the introduction of a graduated range of supported, structured and child-centred agreement-making processes with court as a last resort and less adversarial procedures in the Children’s Court. Amendments to the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) in 2013 and 2014 legislated some of these recommendations.
1 March 2020 – Guardianship and Administration Act 2019 (Vic) came into operation, repealing and replacing the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986 (Vic). The new act adopts many of VLRC’s recommendations. It includes decision-making principles that administrators and guardians must consider when making decisions for a represented person (s9). This is a shift from imposing decisions on represented persons in their best interest to supporting decision making of people with disabilities. Significantly, a person is presumed to have capacity to make decisions with “practicable and appropriate” support.
1 September 2014 – Powers of Attorney Act 2014 implements many of the Committee’s recommendations. Of note, the Bill allows for the appointment of a support person to assist those with impaired decision making abilities (Recommendation 47).
Note: Guardianship and Administration Bill 2018 (ASSEMBLY, Second Reading) Mr Pesutto (Hawthorne) discussed in great length the VLRC Guardianship (2012) review that aimed to respond to the needs of people with impaired decision making while also protecting their rights.
The Jury Directions Act 2015 (Vic) came into force on 29 June 2015. Many of the Commission’s recommendations were enshrined in legislation.
The 2015 Act stated that jury directions should be as clear, brief, simple and comprehensible as possible. Judges should avoid technical legal language wherever possible, and should only direct the jury on points of law that the jury needs to know. The Act states that the judge need not use any particular form of words.
The changes also simplify and clarify important directions in regard to evidence.
The Jury Directions and Other Acts Amendment Act 2017 (Vic) (assented 29/8/17, commenced 1/10/17) implemented a number of amendments relating to directions regarding the reliability of a witness’s evidence, a witness’s motive to lie, and complainants’ accounts of an alleged sexual offence. It also implemented the Commission’s recommendations that judges can order a jury guide to be given to the jury to help it perform its functions and substituted the term “victims” for “complainants” in jury directions.
In August 2008, a Bill was introduced in Parliament that reflected Model B in the Commission’s report. All parties allowed members of Parliament to make a conscience vote. The Bill was passed in October 2008.
The Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 decriminalised abortion. Under the Act, a woman can access abortion up to a gestational limit of 24 weeks. Beyond the 24 weeks, a medical practitioner can provide an abortion if another medical practitioner agrees that an abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances.
Medical practitioners who object to abortion do not have to provide information to a client, but are required to refer the client to another doctor who can provide the information.
Since the report was tabled, Privacy Victoria, the Community Crime Prevention Unit of the Department of Justice and the Victorian Ombudsman have published guidelines on the use of closed circuit TVs that refer to the guiding principles for surveillance in public places recommended in the Commission’s report.
Since the Commission completed its report, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has completed a review, Serious Breaches of Privacy in the Digital Era (ALRC report 123). In its terms of reference, the ALRC was required to take into account the VLRC’s report. The ALRC was asked to design a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy in the digital era.
The ALRC published its final report in September 2014.
In 2010, the new Civil Procedure Act 2010 (Vic) was introduced, which implemented many of the Commission’s recommendations.
The Act aims to facilitate the ‘just, efficient, timely and cost-effective resolution of the real issues in dispute’. Its key reforms include:
- introduce an overarching purpose for the courts and overarching obligations for participants in litigation,
- strengthen the courts’ case management powers, including in relation to expert evidence and costs,
- clarify the courts’ power to control discovery and to refer proceedings to appropriate dispute resolution
- simplify and liberalise the test for summary judgment.
For more information about the Act and an executive summary see Civil Procedure Act 2010 – A Brief Introduction.
At the time the Commission’s report was tabled, a review of Victoria’s equal opportunity law was under way. The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic), enacted in response to that review, largely adopted the Commission’s recommendation to expand the definition of ‘assistance dog’ (although it did not adopt the Commission’s recommendation on the development of a regulatory scheme for training and accreditation).
The definition of discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Act now clearly specifies that discrimination that occurs because a person uses an assistance dog is discrimination against the person because of a disability. This is in line with the Commission’s recommendations and federal law.
The Equal Opportunity Act was also amended to impose express obligations to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for a person with a disability in certain areas. For example, whilst not specifically recommended by the Commission, sections 7 and 54 provide that a person must not refuse to provide accommodation to a person with a disability because he or she has an assistance dog.
June 2017: Bail Amendment (Stage One) Bill 2017 assented, amending Bail Act 1977 (Vic) ss3A & 3B, replacing the term “court” with “bail decision maker”. VLRC’s Review of the Bail Act 1977 report recommended the Bail Act should be drafted to clarify the powers of each decision maker (recommendation 5). In the report’s executive summary: “One of the confusing things about the current Bail Act is that it uses the word ‘court’ to sometimes mean a court, and sometimes police and bail justices. The new Bail Act should refer to individual decision makers so their powers are clear.”
The Explanatory Memoranda to the Bail Amendment Bill stated: “The Bail Amendment Bill 2010 (the Bill) amends the Bail Act 1977 and the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989, and follows on from the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s (VLRC) Review of the Bail Act: Final Report (2007)…The Government is responding to the VLRC recommendations in two stages. The Bill responds to 40 recommendations and represents the first stage of reforms to Victoria’s bail system. Broadly, the aims of the Bill are to clarify aspects of current bail law, codify some existing practices, and promote efficiencies in the operation of the bail system. The Bill also establishes a new legislative framework for the operation of the bail justice system.”
15.9.21 Legislative Council – Bills – Bail Amendment (Reducing Pre-Trial Imprisonment of Women, Aboriginal, and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2021. Second Reading. This bill repeals the two reverse onus tests, the exceptional circumstances and show compelling reason tests, so that granting bail is based on a simplified and focussed single test of unacceptable risk. This means all bail decisions will uphold a general presumption of bail consistent with sections 12, 21 and 25 of the Charter, unless it is established that an accused is an unacceptable risk: to public safety; of interfering with witnesses; of committing an offence; or, of failing to appear for their trial. This is consistent with VLRC’s recommendation to remove reverse onus tests so all bail decisions are made on the basis of unacceptable risk.
At the time the Commission was conducting its review, a national review of residential tenancy databases was being conducted by a joint working group of the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs and the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. The national review released its report in October 2006. Many of the recommendations in the national review were influenced by the Commission’s report.
The first recommendation of the Commission’s report was that the regulation of residential databases should be consistent across Australia. This was also a key recommendation from the national review. In 2010 national model legislation was adopted by the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs.
In September 2010, Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2010 passed (assented 28/9/10, act 67/2010) amending the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 which incorporated the national model legislation on residential tenancy databases. See Part 10 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, Part 10 commencing 1 September 2011.
Most of the recommendations from the ALRC/NSWLRC/VLRC joint review were incorporated into the Model Uniform Evidence Bill adopted by the Standing Committee of Attorneys General in 2007 and further amended in 2010. Most jurisdictions have amended their evidence laws to bring them in line with the Model Uniform Evidence Bill.
Victoria’s new Evidence Act, enacted in 2008, was based on the Model Uniform Evidence Bill and the Commission’s final report about implementation in Victoria. Subsequent amendments to Victoria’s Evidence Act in 2012 implemented amendments to the Model Uniform Evidence Bill adopted by the Standing Committee of Attorneys General in 2010.
In 2008, the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act (ART Act) was passed, implementing most of the Commission’s recommendations.
In 2012, the Victorian Parliament Law Reform Committee held an inquiry into access to information by donor-conceived individuals. In response, the government introduced the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Further Amendment Act 2014. These amendments encouraged donors to consent, but do not allow donor-conceived individuals access to identifying information without the donor’s consent. This response is consistent with the Commission’s recommendation on the issue in its final report.
In October 2015 the government introduced the Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2015 to enable same-sex couples to adopt in Victoria, as recommended by the VLRC in the ART report. The Adoption Amendment (Adoption by Same-Sex Couples) Act came into effect on 1 September 2016.
The recommendations of the Commission’s 2005 Family Violence Police Holding Powers Interim Report were adopted in the Crimes (Family Violence) (Holding Powers) Act 2006.
In 2008, the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 implemented many of the Commission’s legislative recommendations.
The legislative reforms are supported by whole of government family violence prevention initiatives, including Victoria’s Action Plan to Address Violence against Women and Children – Everyone has a Responsibility to Act, launched in 2012.
The Family Violence Protection Amendment Act 2014 made some changes to the operation of family violence safety notices and interim family violence intervention orders.
In 2006 the Victorian Parliament passed the Surveillance Devices (Workplace Privacy) Act 2006 (Vic), adopting the Commission’s recommendation to prohibit the recording or monitoring of employees in toilets, change rooms, lactation rooms or wash rooms.
The Victorian government adopted the most of the Commission’s recommendations in the Disability Act 2006 (Vic).
In particular, Parts 7 and 8 of the Disability Act implemented the Commission’s recommendations for restrictive practices and compulsory treatment of people with an intellectual disability to be guided by principles, require treatment planning and approval and be subject to review by VCAT.
The Disability Act also implemented the Commission’s recommendation for a clinician with oversight of restrictive practices and compulsory treatment, known as the ‘Senior Practitioner’.
On 21 March 2014, the Commonwealth, State and Territory Disability Ministers endorsed the National Framework for Reducing and Eliminating the Use of Restrictive Practices in the Disability Service Sector.
The National Framework focuses on the reduction of the use of restrictive practices in disability services that involves restraint (including physical, mechanical or chemical) or seclusion.
Many of the Commission’s legislative and system-wide recommendations in relation to sexual offences have been implemented.
In 2006, the Victorian Parliament introduced a number of reforms to both the procedural and substantive law governing sexual offences and the prosecution of those offences in response to the Commission’s report. The legislative reforms are contained in the Crimes (Sexual Offences) Act 2006 and the Crimes (Sexual Offences) (Further Amendment) Act 2006, and the Crimes Amendment (Rape) Act 2007. The reforms resulted in the amendment of existing sexual offences and the procedures regulating the prosecution of sexual offences in a court proceeding.
The government also developed a comprehensive sexual assault reform package to coordinate and deliver system-wide reforms including the:
- establishment of multidisciplinary centres by Victoria Police
- introduction of sexual assault forensic nurses
- introduction of specialist sex offences lists in the Magistrates’ and County Courts
- introduction of specialist prosecutors
- establishment of a child witness service
- establishment of a treatment program for 15–18 year olds
- introduction of a Victims’ Charter.
The Crimes (Homicide) Act 2005 implemented the Commission’s major legislative recommendations, including creating a new offence of defensive homicide as an alternative to murder.
As recommended by the Commission, the Department of Justice commenced a review of the operation of defensive homicide laws in 2010, five years after the introduction of the changes. In June 2014, the government introduced a bill to abolish defensive homicide on the grounds that it was not operating as intended. This was based on evidence that defensive homicide was predominantly being relied upon by men who killed other men in violent confrontations, rather than women who kill in the context of family violence.
In September 2014, the Crimes Amendment (Abolition of Defensive Homicide) Act 2014 came into operation, seeking to address homicide in the context of family violence by simplifying self-defence and introducing jury directions on family violence.
In 2005, section 4(2)(c) of the Bail Act 1977 (Vic) was repealed pursuant to the Commission’s recommendations. The effect of this was to give courts a broader discretion to take all relevant factors into account when deciding whether to grant bail to a person.
In introducing the amendment the Attorney-General stated that the repeal would ensure that the bail system operates in a fairer way for Indigenous people, people from newly arrived communities and people with a physical or intellectual disability.
The Property (Co-Ownership) Act 2005 implemented key recommendations of the Commission’s report. The main purposes of the Act were to amend the Property Law Act 1958 to provide for the transfer of jurisdiction for disputes relating to the co-ownership of land and goods from the Supreme Court and County Court to VCAT; and to amend the remedies available for determining those disputes.
The amendments made the process for resolving disputes about co-ownership more accessible and cheaper, and provided for a wider and more flexible range of remedies for disputes.