standards for Federal programmes.924 These standards would be included in court charters, which would specify standards of service to be provided to members of the public.925
Implementation of the Access to Justice report
9.14The Federal government issued a “Justice” statement in May 1995 in which it committed itself to making dispute resolution services more widely available. Funding was allocated to 24 new family mediation services throughout Australia over a four year programme. Funding was also allocated to expand community based family mediation services. In a national poll in July 1995, only 17% of Australians were aware of the availability of family mediation services. In December 1995 a community education programme was launched to inform the community about the availability of such services. A National Alternative Dispute Resolution Council (NADRAC) was established in November 1995 to develop a comprehensive policy framework for the expansion of alternative dispute resolution.
Family Law Reform Act 1995
9.15The Government responded to reform proposals by shifting the focus of the family law system from litigation to non-adversarial dispute resolution processes.926 The Family Law Reform Act 1995 (the 1995 Act) reflected this shift, and came into force in 1996.
9.16The 1995 Act provided a mechanism for community based counselling and mediation organisations to become approved organisations under the Family Law Act 1975. The immunity, confidentiality and admission provisions that already protected court mediators were extended to these approved organisations. Increased budget provisions were made to implement the legislation. Section 13E placed a duty upon the Minister to publish a list of approved organisations.
9.17The 1995 Act introduced the term “primary dispute resolution” to refer to arbitration, counselling and mediation. This was intended to emphasise that these were the primary, rather than the “alternative”, dispute resolution processes for family law disputes.927
Counselling services of the Family Court
9.18The Family Law Act 1975 made provision for court counselling services to support the family, both before and during the court process, and to assist them to adjust to court orders.928 All counsellors attached to the court programme, or
924 SPIDR reported in 1991. The principles are outlined in paragraph 11.59 of the Access to Justice report.
925 See paragraph 15.1 of the Access to Justice report, ibid.
926 It issued a report - The Family Law Act 1975 : Directions for Amendment, (1993).
927 Section 14E of the 1975 Act as inserted by the Family Law Reform Act 1995, (the 1995 Act).
928 Ibid at section 14.