In November 2009, the Attorney-General asked the Commission to provide the government with a range of reform options for the processes followed in child protection cases in the Children's Court of Victoria. The Commission’s reference was recommended by the Ombudsman in a review of child protection services.
In February 2010, the Commission published an information paper containing draft options for reform for public comment. The Commission received 51 submissions and engaged in 28 consultations. The Commission also met the two major institutions in child protection proceedings—the Children’s Court and the Department of Human Services—as well as practitioners in the field of child protection.
The Commission's report Protection Applications in the Children's Court was tabled in Parliament on 5 October 2010.
The report contained five options for reform. The options draw upon innovative aspects of the Victorian legal system—for example, the growing emphasis upon appropriate dispute resolution (ADR)—and important developments in child protection procedures elsewhere, such as family group conferences in New Zealand.
In January 2011, shortly after the Commission’s report was tabled, the government commissioned a further inquiry into child protection, known as the Protecting Victoria's Vulnerable Children Inquiry. The terms of reference for that inquiry required consideration of ‘possible changes to the processes of the courts referencing the recent work of and options put forward by the Victorian Law Reform Commission.’
The Protecting Victoria's Vulnerable Children report was tabled on in February 2012. The report specifically endorsed some of the Commission’s recommendations, in particular the introduction of a graduated range of supported, structured and child-centred agreement-making processes with court as a last resort and less adversarial procedures in the Children’s Court.
Amendments to the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) in 2013 and 2014 legislated some of these recommendations.