Law reform in Victoria

A monitor of law reform in Victoria

This is a selection of recent law reform activity in Victoria, not limited to reforms connected to the VLRC. For a complete list of laws currently being considered by Parliament, visit the Victorian Parliament website. To find out about and have your say on current Victorian Government inquiries, visit engage.vic.gov.au.

06 February 2024
The Victorian Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee has begun an Inquiry into vaping and tobacco controls, to investigate trends in vaping and tobacco use and their impacts on the community, including the impacts of the illicit tobacco and e-cigarette industry on the justice system and effective control measures. Submissions are open until Friday the 29th of March 2024 and the committee aim to report their findings by the 30th of November 2024.

15 December 2023
The draft Animal Care and Protection Bill has been released for public consultation. The Bill proposes new laws to replace the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA Act), which is more than 35 years old. The draft Bill explicitly recognises animals as being sentient and sets minimum care standards for animals in Victorian law for the first time. Animal cruelty offences have also been strengthened, including higher penalties to address the most serious of crimes. It also recognises that cruelty can be physical or mental. Have your say by 8 March 2024.

5 December 2023
The Crimes Amendment (Non-Fatal Strangulation) Bill 2023 has passed Parliament and received royal assent. The bill amends the Crimes Act 1958 by introducing two new offences of non-fatal strangulation, and the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 by broadening the definition of family violence to include terms relating to strangulation. The Victorian Parliamentary Library recently created a Bill Brief providing more background and related information about this bill which you can access here.

5 December 2023
The Corrections Amendment (Parole Reform) Bill 2023 has passed Parliament and received royal assent. It aims to amend the Corrections Act 1986 in relation to conditions for making a parole order for the prisoner Paul Denyer; to require the Adult Parole Board in certain circumstances to specify a period during which a prisoner is not eligible for parole; to make further provision for the sharing of certain information by the Secretary and the Adult Parole Board and to insert definitions for the terms ‘restricted prisoner’ and ‘restricted prisoner declaration’.

24 November 2023
The Victorian Parliament’s Electoral Matters Committee is currently investigating the conduct of the Victorian 2022 state election. They are seeking input from people with disabilities, to learn about their experience of the election, and have created a survey which is open until the 18th of December 2023. More detail, and access to the survey is available here.

07 November 2023
The Summary Offences Amendment (Decriminalisation of Public Drunkenness) Act 2021 will come into effect. The Act repeals sections of the Summary Offences Act 1966 which relate to drunkenness and introduces measures to make the response to public intoxication in Victoria a health based rather than legal response. From this date, people identified as being drunk in public will be encouraged to go to safe spaces like sobering up centres rather than being taken into any kind of police custody.

30 October 2023
As part of its 2-stage program of raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years to 14 years, the Victorian government announced the appointment of an Independent Review Panel to advise on the design and implementation of an Alternative Service Model to support young Victorians to stay out of the justice system. The development of this model is key to the 2nd stage of the reforms and aims to provide 12 and 13-year-olds and their families with access to early intervention and rehabilitative services, to reduce offending and improve their welfare and community safety.

26 October 2023
The Victorian government announced $138 million of funding to establish an Australian-first Historical Forced Adoptions Redress Scheme. The scheme was a key recommendation of the recent Victorian parliamentary Inquiry into responses to historical forced adoption in Victoria. It will open in February 2024 and aims to provide individualised support to Victorian resident mothers or mothers who gave birth in Victoria who were forcibly separated from their babies prior to 1990, through an apology process, counselling and psychological support, and a financial redress payment. More information about the scheme is available here.

20 October 2023
The Victorian Parliament’s Integrity and Oversight Committee is now accepting submissions to its Inquiry into the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1982. This is the first comprehensive review of the legislation since it came into force in 1983 and aims to ensure the act is working to an effective, modern, timely and technologically robust policy model. Submissions are open until the 15th of January 2024 and further information is available here.

10 October 2023
The Justice Legislation Amendment Act 2023 received assent. The Act amends the Jury Directions Act 2015 in relation to sexual offences cases and amends other Victorian acts in relation to issues including court security, spent convictions, disciplinary action in the legal profession, the role of police coronial investigators and improving notification protections for persons taken into custody who self-identify as Aboriginal.

10 October 2023
The Summary Offences Amendment (Nazi Salute Prohibition) Act 2023 received assent. The Act makes the public display or performance of Nazi gestures an offence and aims to extend the application of the offence of public display of Nazi symbols to include any symbol or gesture used by the Nazi Party including its paramilitary arms.

05 October 2023
The Bail Amendment Bill 2023 passed both houses and is now awaiting Royal Assent. The Bill changes the factors decision makers must take into account when making determinations in relation to bail, and repeals two offences. The amendments refine the bail tests to focus on serious alleged offending and serious risk and are intended to reduce the overrepresentation of vulnerable groups in the justice system. Further information about this bill and some of the recent history of bail law reform in Victoria is available in the Bill Brief created by the Victorian Parliamentary Library.

27 June 2023
The Children and Health Legislation Amendment (Statement of Recognition, Aboriginal Self-determination and Other Matters) Act 2023 was assented 27 June 2023. It proposes amendments to embed recognition of Aboriginal self-determination across child protection and health. It is intended to allow greater Aboriginal-led service delivery and improve outcomes for Aboriginal children, young people and communities.

6 June 2023
The Gambling Regulation Amendment Act 2023 received assent. It enables the Minister to determine the number of wagering and betting licences and any exclusivity periods for future licensing processes. Previously the Act only permitted one wagering and betting licence to be in operation at the same time. The Act gives the State the option to issue multiple licences.

6 June 2023
The Building Legislation Amendment Act 2023 received assent on the 6th of June 2023. The Act amends the Building Act 1993 and the Architects Act 1991 and other related Acts to make important changes to how building is regulated in Victoria. Among these changes, the new Act establishes the appointment of a State Building Surveyor as a statutory role, creates the new statutory role of a Building Monitor to better represent and advocate for domestic building consumers, and expands the building practitioner registration system.

The Energy Legislation Amendment (Electricity Outage Emergency Response and Other Matters) Act 2023
was assented 06 June 2023. The bill amends the Electricity Industry Act 2000 granting the Secretary of the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action new powers to compel distribution businesses to provide them with information to assist in emergency management operations and deliver support and relief programs and payments to their impacted customers during and following a prolonged power outage. The Bill also amends the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target Act 2007 and the Essential Services Commission Act 2001 to strengthen compliance with the Victorian Energy Upgrades program.

23 May 2023
The Disability and Social Services Regulation Amendment Act 2023 received assent on the 23rd of May 2023. It amends the Disability Act 2006, especially in relation to the sharing of information about persons with a disability and persons subject to restrictive practices and supervised treatment orders; residential services; and the compulsory treatment of persons with an intellectual disability.

20 May 2023
The Legislative Assembly Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Victorian Parliament has commenced an Inquiry into increasing the number of registered organ and tissue donors. The Committee is particularly interested in receiving input on the effectiveness of the current model for registering to be an organ and tissue donor in Victoria, as well as the issues that impact donation rates in the state. Submissions closed on the 19th of May 2023. The Committee is currently undertaking public hearings and aim to deliver their report no later than the 31st March 2024.

16 May 2023
The Human Source Management Act 2023 received assent on the 16th of May 2023, implementing recommendations from the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants. The Act sets out the process for the registration, use and management of Victoria Police’s human sources and establishes an external oversight model.

16 May 2023
The Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Amendment (Medically Supervised Injecting Centre) Act 2023 received assent on the 16th of May 2023. This Act provides for the ongoing licensing of the operation of a medically supervised injecting centre.

31 March 2023
Have your say on the big issues facing Victoria. One of the best ways to have your views heard is by making a submission to a parliamentary committee inquiry. The Victorian Parliament has a range of inquiries seeking involvement from the community on issues ranging from stamp duty to improving organ donation rates, flood event preparedness, ensuring sub-contractors are paid, native bird hunting and many other topics. For an insight into the committee inquiry process and a roundup of current inquiries by parliamentary committees click here.

28 March 2023
The Health Legislation Amendment (Information Sharing) Act 2023, received assent on the 28th of March 2023. The new Act will make it easier for hospitals and health services to share information about patients’ health records. Under the regime, from February 2024 public hospitals and services will be able to electronically share patient data – such as health conditions, allergies, medication, medical images and laboratory results – through a centralised database.

28 March 2023
The Heritage Amendment Act 2023 was assented to, amending the Heritage Act 2017. The amendments provide for online access to heritage documents and notices; online Heritage Council hearings; applications to exclude places and objects from the Victorian Heritage Register; and general amendments that improve the operation of the Heritage Act.

24 March 2023
The final report of the Cultural Review of the Adult Custodial Corrections System, Safer Prisons, Safer People, Safer Communities was released. This independent review “examined the culture, experiences, systems and processes within Victoria’s prisons and correctional centres. It drew on research, data and the direct testimony of people who have experience of the corrections system to develop recommendations that will promote a safer corrections system characterised by respect, equality, transparency and support. In recognition of the continued over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody, the Review also looked carefully at Aboriginal cultural safety and self-determination.”

8 March 2023
The Children, Youth and Families Amendment (Raise the Age) Bill 2022 had its second reading and is currently being considered by the Legislative Council. Its purpose is to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Victoria from 10 to 14 years.

6 March 2023
The government has undertaken to reform Victoria’s Bail Laws. The Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes has said that the ‘reverse onus test’ which puts the onus on accused people to give a reason why they should get bail, would be removed for low-level offenders.

14 February 2023
New driver distraction road rules will come into effect across Victoria from 31 March 2023. The new rules will extend existing mobile phone rules to cover in-built vehicle systems, mounted devices, wearable and portable devices such as smartwatches and tablets. Motorists caught driving distracted will receive penalties of four demerit points and a $555 fine. Victorian Government Media Release

8 February 2023
The Road Safety Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2023 was introduced into Parliament. The Bill will amend the Road Safety Act 1986 to provide that medicinal cannabis that does not impair driving must be treated in the same manner as other prescription drugs.

9 December 2022
The Standing Council of Attorneys-General (SCAG) participants agreed to release a draft report on the Age of Criminal Responsibility. It recommended that the the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments should raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years of age, without exception. Previously, in March 2022 the Parliament of Victoria’s Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee had recommended raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14.

6 Sept 2022
Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Act 2022 received assent on the 6th of September 2022. The Act legislates that the prosecution must notify victims of their right to appear at a criminal proceeding and the availability of legal assistance in relation to an application to 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. The VLRC recommended this in the 2016 Victims of Crime in the Criminal Trial Process inquiry.

30 August 2022
Public drunkenness will be decriminalised in Victoria from November 2023. The commencement date of this reform was postponed by one year because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. See the Crimes Legislation Amendment Act 2022.

7 June 2022
Victims of Crime (Financial Assistance Scheme) Act 2022: The Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) will be replaced with an administrative Financial Assistance Scheme. The new scheme will enable victims of violent crime to access support and financial assistance more easily, without going to court. Reforming state-funded financial assistance for victims of crime was recommended in the VLRC’s 2018 review of the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996. View the government statement on the new scheme.

31 May 2022
Justice Legislation Amendment Act 2022 received assent on the 31st of May, 2022. The Act legislates integrated birth certificates for adoptees and improved identity information accessibility under the Adoption Act 1984. These relate to VLRC recommendations in our 2017 review of the Adoption Act 1984. Victorian Government Press Release.

10 May 2022
Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022: Decriminalisation of sex work in Victoria will occur in two stages with parts of the act commencing from 10 May 2022 as part of stage one. Stage one relates to:

  • the decriminalisation of street-based sex work in most locations
  • the repeal of offences for working with a sexually transmitted infection and requirements to undergo regular STI testing
  • the repeal of offences for individual sex workers not using safer sex practices
  • the repeal of the small owner-operator sex work service provider register
  • changes to advertising controls applicable to the sex work industry
  • amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.

4 April 2022
Victoria Police will trial the Screening Assessment for Stalking and Harassment (SASH) tool at Prahran and Morwell stations to identify stalking behaviour and assess risk posed to victims. Referred to in the VLRCs stalking inquiry (2022 Interim Report).

24 March 2022
Parliamentary Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System: The Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Victorian Parliament tabled its Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System. The report recommends the State Government adopt a more modern and rehabilitation-focused approach to justice in Victoria, particularly in relation to the Bail Act 1977 and Victims Charter Act 2006. The report also recommends raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.

16 March 2022
Workplace Safety Legislation and Other Matters Amendment Act 2022 received assent on the 16th of March 2022. The Act removes perpetrator notification and attendance at Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal hearings related to family violence or sexual offences. The VLRC recommended this in our 2018 review of the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996.

10 March 2022
The Government responded to the Parliamentary inquiry into responses to historical forced adoptions in Victoria.

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