SALRI in 2023: a fruitful year of law reform

The South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) is an independent law reform body based at the University of Adelaide Law School. Established in December 2010, SALRI has had considerable output and impact over its 13 years of operation.

SALRI is ably assisted by its Advisory Board and the linked Law Reform class who play a valuable role to support SALRI’s work. 

In 2023, SALRI had another busy, but rewarding, year.

Review of the Mental Health Act

Co-authors of the review of the Mental Health Act

In early 2023, SALRI completed its review of the operation of the Mental Health Act 2009, with its major Report being publicly released on 13 April 2023. The Report made a total of 61 recommendations to reform law and practice, as well as 11 suggestions regarding key issues recurring throughout consultation that fell outside the formal terms of reference of the review. SALRI thanks the many contributors to this important project, including the co-authors Olga Pandos, Professor John Williams, Associate Professor David Plater, Anita Brunacci, Dr Michaela Okninski, Elaine Marinas, Isabella Quek, Rachel Tan, Divya Narayan and Sofia Arlotta. SALRI especially acknowledges the contribution of Olga Pandos as lead author and researcher. 

This reference also highlights the value of the Law Reform class and the student input to SALRI’s work, especially when we have the opportunity to employ recent graduates or current students as researchers. 

Review of the Ageing and Adult Safeguarding Act 

Co-authors of the Ageing and Adult Safeguarding Act

In 2022, SALRI released its major review of the operation of the Ageing and Adult Safeguarding Act. In 2023, the Government released its positive response to this Report.

You can view a link to the official South Australian Government Response where 42 of SALRI’s 46 recommendations have been accepted.

See the SA Government's response to all recommendations

Succession Act passed

A meeting that took place during this project

The landmark Succession Act 2023 progressed through Parliament with all party support in 2023. The Act is a huge and historic update to succession law (including removing references to King Charles II who died back in 1685!). The Act incorporates no fewer than seven past SALRI reports going back a decade and implements 107 of SALRI's 113 recommendations over these seven reports. The role and work of SALRI was widely commended by all parties in the Parliamentary debate.  

SALRI acknowledges and thanks the many contributors to this project over 12 odd years as well as the financial support of the Law Foundation of South Australia Inc who funded a large proportion of this work. SALRI particularly acknowledges the contribution to this important project by our good friend and colleague, the late Helen Wighton, SALRI’s founding Deputy Director. 

Update: Suppression Orders 

The team leading the review into the role and operation of suppression orders in SA

In 2023, SALRI actively progressed its current review into the role and operation of suppression orders in South Australia. This has proved a recurring issue and is linked to past joint work with the Tasmania Law Reform Institute. This was a self-referred SALRI project. SALRI is grateful for the Chief Justice’s support for this project.   

SALRI has been ably supported by Jemma Holt as lead researcher and the Hon Geoff Muecke, former Chief Judge of the District Court of South Australia and Adjunct Professor at the University of Adelaide. SALRI also notes the input of Lisa Cooper, Olivia Gerhardy, Taylor Portelli as well as Yasmin Ilhan of the Law Commission of England. The Law Reform class background work and research has again proved helpful. SALRI highlights the support of the Law Foundation of South Australia who kindly provided funding for this review. 

Jemma Holt, Geoff Muecke, Taylor Portelli and L Alexander

The official consultation period commenced on 31 March 2023 and closed on 30 September 2023. There has significant interest and input. There has been a broad degree of consistency in the various themes to emerge in the many responses received to date. There has been wide acknowledgement of the strong public interest in open justice, but also the wide assertion that this cannot be an absolute rule and, in certain circumstances, both discretionary and mandatory suppression orders may be necessary to protect a fair trial and protect parties such as children or victims of sexual offences. 

SALRI is now in the process of collating and analysing its research and the responses received and drafting its final report. This Report will be released in early 2024. 

Update: Witness Competence

Geoff Muecke, Jemma Holt, John Williams and David Plater

This reference was received from the former Attorney-General, the Hon Vickie Chapman and unfortunately did not come with specific funding, so SALRI has had to progress it ‘off the side of the desk’ in between other more pressing references. SALRI is grateful for the generous assistance of the Hon Geoff Muecke, Jemma Holt, Isabel Brewer, Shannon Cain and Dr Samantha Fairclough.  

SALRI has heard wide concerns over current law and practice in South Australia, notably its perceived complexity and incoherence. SALRI’s Report will also address the vexed distinction between sworn and unsworn evidence under s 9 of the Evidence Act and the contentious present warning as to the purported superior quality of sworn over unsworn evidence. SALRI had made considerable progress and aims to complete this reference as soon as possible.  

This project links with a previous SALRI Report into Oaths into Court authored by the Hon David Bleby SC. 

Grant Application

Establishing a Legal Framework for Supported Decision-Making to Empower Individuals with Impaired Decision-Making 

Brooke Washusen and David Plater

There are extensive concerns regarding the abuse and exploitation of persons with disability, notably as recently outlined by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. Similar concerns have also been conveyed to SALRI in several previous major projects. There is also the need, as highlighted by the Royal Commission and others, to now promote and facilitate, as far as is practicable, a supported decision-making model as opposed to the traditional paternalistic substitute decision making model.   

SALRI’s new project is therefore timely. This project is titled: ‘The Need for New Solutions? Establishing a Legal Framework for Supported Decision-Making to Empower Individuals with Impaired Decision-Making’. SALRI acknowledges the support of the Law Foundation of South Australia Inc in providing a grant to Professor John Williams (SALRI Director), Associate Professor David Plater (SALRI Deputy Director), Associate Professor Sylvia Villios, Associate Professor Beth Nosworthy and Dr Mark Giancaspro for SALRI to be able to undertake this project. 

The purpose of this new project is to examine effective reform options to promote individual supported decision making and establish appropriate safeguards, as there are various issues with existing options such as guardianship, administration, and powers of attorney.  There are concerns that these traditional approaches, whilst suitable for some, may be blunt instruments that do not adequately accommodate or facilitate supported decision making for individuals with disability. One option, amongst others, which SALRI will examine is the role of microboards. 

SALRI is pleased to welcome back Brooke Washusen, former Law Reform student, as the research assistant for this reference. Background and planning work has now commenced, and further work and consultation will be progressed in early 2024. 

Impact and engagement

SALRI visit to Port Pirie

SALRI’s impact remains considerable for its size. SALRI takes part in regular industry, media, professional and community events and in 2023 has also taken an active role in both Australia and England to promote Commonwealth law reform links and collaboration.

SALRI is committed to active, inclusive and ongoing engagement, notably with regional and Aboriginal communities. Law reform is not just for lawyers or the CBD. In 2023, SALRI visited Clare, Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Mt Gambier. SALRI thanks Anita Brunacci and Dr Mark Giancaspro for their support for SALRI’s ongoing engagement.   

Thank you

SALRI thanks the many parties and individuals who generously contributed in various ways to its work in 2023 and looks forward to another fruitful year in 2024.

Tagged in South Australian Law Reform Institute, salri, Impact, Research, News

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