the Official Solicitor under the Matrimonial Causes Rules (Cap 179). The Family Law Council reviewed the role of the “separate representative” in the light of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
5.37Section 68L(1) of the Family Law Act 1975 provides for separate representation in any proceedings in which the welfare or best interests of the child is a relevant consideration. The Family Law Reform Act 1995 amended the term “separate representative” to “child’s representative”.622
5.38During 1993/1994, the Family Court of Australia and of Western Australia appointed about 1,800 separate representatives to protect children.623 The Council noted that children often feel excluded from decisions which affect them. In Australia the role of the separate representative is to make submissions to the court on the best interests of the child, whether or not they reflect the wishes of the child. In order to carry out this role, the separate representative obtains a report from an officer of a State in relation to the welfare of the child, seeks information from the school and local agencies and obtains an expert’s report from appropriate persons such as a child psychiatrist.624
5.39The Council noted that separate representatives are appointed at different stages in the proceedings and there was little uniformity on when was the appropriate time.625 The Legal Aid Commissions in various States organised the provision of separate representatives. The Council felt there was a need for a co-ordinated approach to case management in order to protect the interests of the child, and to avoid delay, duplication and omissions.626 A comprehensive training and accreditation system should be in place.627 A training program has been developed in 1996 by the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, the Family Court and the Legal Aid Commissions.
622 Section 68M(1).
623 Ibid at paragraph 1.09.
624 Ibid at paragraph 4.15.
626 Ibid at paragraph 4.49.
627 Ibid at paragraph 4.29-4.33.