2021: Another Busy Year for SALRI and Law Reform in South Australia
It has been another busy and productive year, despite the ongoing COVID-19 situation, for the South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI). SALRI is an independent law reform body based at the Adelaide University Law School which was established in December 2010 under an agreement between the University of Adelaide, the Attorney-General and the Law Society of South Australia. SALRI’s output and impact in 2021 has remained significant.
Completed and past projects
Powers of Attorney
On 19 January 2021, SALRI publicly released its Report, Valuable Instrument or the Single Most Abused Legal Document in our Judicial System? A Review of the Role and Operation of Enduring Powers of Attorney in South Australia. This report made a total of 120 recommendations to clarify and improve the use and operation of EPAs in South Australia, but to also address misuse. SALRI thanks the Law Foundation of South Australia for its support. The State Government has circulated a draft Bill based on SALRI’s Report for public comment.
A landmark draft Civil Liability (Serious Invasions of Privacy) Bill to establish a right of privacy and a new statutory tort of serious breach of privacy based on SALRI’s major 2016 Report has also been circulated by the State Government for public comment.
On 14 October 2021, the Attorney-General tabled an exposure draft Forfeiture Bill in State Parliament based on SALRI’s February 2020 Report to reform and update the common law forfeiture rule in unlawful homicide and place it on a statutory basis.
A Succession Bill to bring South Australia’s succession law into the 21st century was introduced on 23 June 2021 by the Attorney-General in the South Australian Parliament. This Bill is the culmination of many years of work and is based on no fewer than seven SALRI Reports into various aspects of succession law and practice carried out between 2011 and 2017. The Bill implements the 'bulk' of SALRI's recommendations. The Attorney-General highlighted the contribution to the Bill of SALRI and especially noted the valuable contribution of the late Helen Wighton, the founding Deputy Director of SALRI who sadly passed away in 2014 after commencing work on this important project. This Bill has lapsed with the end of the present Parliamentary session.
Provocation (part of the wider LGBTIQ reference)
During 2021, the landmark Statutes Amendment (Abolition of Provocation and Related Matters) Act 2020 came into operation. This Act abolished the vexed partial defence of provocation to murder (including the so called outdated ‘gay panic defence’) and made related changes to other defences, family violence and sentencing. The Act passed Parliament with all party support and is based on two major Reports undertaken by SALRI.
The Termination of Pregnancy Act 2021 passed the South Australian Parliament and received Royal assent on 11 March 2021. This major Act draws closely on SALRI's comprehensive 2019 Report written by Professor John Williams, Dr David Plater, Anita Brunacci, Sarah Kapadia and Dr Melissa Oxlad. During 2021, the linked Health Care (Safe Access) Amendment Act 2020 (SA), also drawing on SALRI’s 2019 Report, came in to effect.
On 11 November 2021, SALRI publicly released its major Report into the role and operation of Communication Partners (also called intermediaries) to assist parties with complex communication needs to provide their best quality evidence in the justice system, both in and out of court. This Report draws on SALRI’s extensive research and consultation.
“People with disabilities or disorders that affect their ability to communicate face numerous challenges in the justice system,” said Professor John Williams. “SALRI decided to undertake this project itself. SALRI’s Report seeks to help children, people with disabilities, older people and members of Aboriginal and multicultural communities to have better access to justice.”
This Report is now with the State Government for its consideration. SALRI thanks the Law Foundation of South Australia for its financial support to complete this reference.
CONSULTATION AND EXTERNAL ENGAGEMENT
In March 2021, SALRI visited Tasmania as part of ongoing joint research and law reform projects with the Tasmania Law Reform Institute based at the University of Tasmania Law School. The highlight of SALRI's busy visit was attending a dinner hosted at Government House with the Governor of Tasmania, Professor Kate Warner, and Mr Warner.
During 2021, SALRI took part in various university, media, professional and community events.
SALRI is committed to an active and inclusive consultation and engagement process. As Dr David Plater, SALRI Deputy Director, observes:
“Modern law reform is not just for lawyers and the ‘usual suspects’ and wide, active and inclusive consultation is integral to modern and effective law reform. SALRI is especially committed to involving regional and Aboriginal communities.”
SALRI visited Port Pirie and Port Augusta on 24-26 March 2021 to consult with interested parties, service providers and the community as part of its Communication Partner reference.
On 15-16 July 2021, Adelaide Law School and the SALRI took part in a combined student engagement / SALRI consultation trip to Port Pirie and Port Augusta. Dr David Plater, Dr Mark ‘Matt’ Giancaspro, Nadia Hess, Brooke Washusen, Holly Nicholls and Anita Brunacci were joined by eight law students. The trip included a session hosted by the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM) and Umeewarra Radio in Port Augusta where we heard from Charlie Jackson, other local Elders and members of Aboriginal communities along with lawyers from the ALRM. This was a powerful and invaluable session for both staff and students and deep thanks to all involved. See further ABC article.
LAW REFORM ELECTIVE
SALRI is assisted by the linked Law Reform class which makes a valuable contribution to SALRI”s work. A number of former law Reform students were co-authors on both SALRI’s Powers of Attorney and Communication Partner Reports.
The Law Reform course benefits from a diverse range of guest speakers to discuss the law reform process and context. Guest speakers in 2021 included the Hon Vickie Chapman MP (Attorney-General), John Rau SC and Robert Lawson QC (former Attorneys-General), the Hon John Dawkins MLC (President of the Legislative Council), Justice Chris Bleby (Court of Appeal), Justice Tim Stanley (Supreme Court,) the Hon Geoffrey Muecke (former Chief Judge of the SA District Court), Rachel Lane (Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement), Skye Kakoschke-Moore (policy officer at Purple Orange), Kaela Dore (family lawyer), Reece Fursa (Crown Solicitor’s Office), representatives of the Attorney-General’s Department, Aimee Travers (Parliamentary Counsel), as well as a number of former law reform students now in practice.
SALRI thanks all parties who kindly contributed to guest lectures for the Law Reform class in 2021.
SALRI’s present reference is to examine witness competence and the operation of s 9 of the Evidence Act 1929. The Hon David Bleby QC and Hon Geoff Muecke are kindly assisting SALRI.
SALRI welcomes any comments from interested parties to this reference. Further details can be found on the Fact Sheet.
On 26 October 2021, SALRI’s work was acknowledged at a reception held at Government House, hosted by the Hon Frances Adamson AC, Governor of South Australia. The Governor and Professor John Williams, SALRI Director, spoke of SALRI’s role and work over the last decade.
Further information about SALRI including the landmark changes to South Australian laws as a result of its work can be found on the SALRI website.