Law Reform Submissions

IMCL regularly develops Law Reform Submissions in response to proposed and existing legislation and other legal issues that affect the community.

Submission Summaries

Submission to the Inquiry into a Legislated Spent Convictions Scheme

Date of Submission: 9 July 2019

Criminal checks are increasingly becoming common practice by major employers, yet Victoria remains the only jurisdiction that does not have a legislated scheme for convictions to become spent. Such a scheme would allow people who have been involved in the criminal justice system the opportunity to leave behind the stigma attached to this, particularly in relation to minor offences and significantly aged convictions or findings of guilt. IMCL endorses the recommendations made by Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project (RAP) and the Federation of Community Legal Centres (FCLC). Our submission outlines the following recommendations:

- A criminal record information check should not disclose pending charges, in particular where the charge relates to a minor offence

- A criminal record information check should not disclose diversion matters whilst a person is complying with the conditions of their diversion plan

- A subsequent minor conviction should not restart the waiting period for a prior conviction to become spent

- A minor conviction or finding of guilt should be capable of becoming spent

- Once a conviction becomes spent it should not be capable of being revived by a subsequent offence

Submission to the Royal Commission into Mental Health

Date of Submission: 5 July 2019

In our submission, we highlight the importance of integrated legal assistance services for our clients, who often experience a range of intersecting legal issues arising from mental health issues and face significant obstacles in accessing services. In addition to increasing funding for existing and future integrated service models, IMCL makes a number of recommendations to address the overrepresentation of people with mental illness in the justice system:

- Investment in the construction of more public housing and an improvement in the policies and regulation of Community Housing Organisations 
- Funding of independent support services for tenants with mental illness and a requirement that CHOs refer to them before resorting to compliance or eviction proceedings
- The introduction of a specific mental illness caution by Victoria Police for low level offending
- The inclusion of a mental health diversion program in all Victorian Magistrates' Courts and increased resourcing for specialist therapeutic courts
- A requirement that Corrections staff make proper enquiries with mental health practitioners and support services before making an assessment in relation to CCO conditions.
- Amendment of s 48 of the Sentencing Act 1991 to require the court to regard a mental health diagnosis when deciding to place an unpaid community work condition on a CCO
- Consideration of the repeal or amendment of offences in the Summary Offences Act 1966 that disproportionately target persons with poor mental health or those experiencing homelessness
- The employment of mental health triage workers at Magistrates' Courts to assist police and Magistrates with making interim risk and mental health assessments
- A pilot program for mental health response teams working in conjunction with police to provide assessments and mental health care for family violence callouts

Submission to the Victorian Ombudsman on the Investigation into State Trustees Limited

Date of Submission: 17 August 2018

IMCL was invited to provide a submission for the Victorian Ombudsman’s investigation into State Trustees. Through IMCL’s various partnerships and close work with social workers, we were made aware of several issues that State Trustees’ clients were experiencing. These include:

- difficulties in communicating with State Trustees;
- delays in distributing personal allowances;
- inadequate balancing of the competing needs for regular saving and for individual autonomy;
- issues with State Trustees not administering their duty properly when their clients have outstanding infringements; and
- State Trustees not acting in the best interests of clients and not acting in consultation with clients.

IMCL's concerns have now been recognised in the Ombudsman’s report, which identifies State Trustees’ financial management and communication with clients as key problem areas. Read more about IMCL's response to the Victorian Ombudsman's report here.

Submission on the Review of Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic)

Date of Submission: 30 October 2017

Submission on the Abbotsford Street Renewal Program

Date of Submission: 16 October 2017

Proposals by the Department of Health and Human Service to redevelop ageing public housing estates have been referred for consideration to the Social Housing Renewal Standing Advisory Committee. The Committee has been asked to advise on the suitability of these proposals and to enable community consultation on the issue. One of these estates - Abbotsford Street, North Melbourne - is within IMCL's catchment. Based on our ongoing legal work with vulnerable tenants, we make the following observations:

- There will be considerable disruption for already vulnerable tenants.
- There is no guarantee that there will be an increase in social housing stock, and in any event a 10% increase is grossly insufficient.
- We will lose invaluable public housing with the transfer to private ownership.
- There is no clear plan about how private and public properties will be distributed across the site.
- There will be insufficient onsite parking leading to the accumulation of fines which disproportionately impact those on low incomes and which often lead to a costly infringements roundabout.
- The shift from public to community housing provider managed social housing means less public accountability of housing providers as the government distances itself from the needs of social housing tenants.

Response to Victoria Legal Aid’s Means Test Options Paper

Date of Submission: 11 June 2017

Law Reform Proposal on the Requirements to Notify VicRoads of a Change of Address

Date of Submission: 4 April 2017

Submission on the Activities (Public Amenity and Security) Local Law 2017

Date of Submission: 17 March 2017

The City of Melbourne have proposed amendments to the Activities Local Law 2009 in an attempt to address the increased numbers of people sleeping rough in the CBD. The key aspects of the Amending Law broaden the ban on camping and provide for confiscation and disposal of unattended items.

IMCL opposes the amending law on the basis that:

  • Criminalising homelessness will further entrench disadvantage;
  • Fining people for offences associated with homelessness is against the intention of theInfringements Act 2006 (Vic); 
  • These fines will result in processes that are resource intensive for all involved, be the subject of long delays and unlikely to see fines paid;
  • Some of the laws contravene the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic); and
  • These laws contradict recent City of Melbourne and state government measures that will significantly contribute to reducing homelessness in the longer-term.

Response to Options Paper on the Residential Tenancies Act Review

Date of Submission: 10 February 2017

Submission for the Ombudsman’s own motion investigation into maintenance charges against tenants (MCATs)

Date of Submission: 3 October 2016

IMCL considers MCATS to be a systemic issue which can place tenants at risk of homelessness or continued homelessness. This submission raises concerns that MCAT amounts are often inflated; that the Office of Housing fails to act as a model litigant; and that the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal is not an even playing field for vulnerable tenants. IMCL also considers that MCATs issued in the context of family violence warrant the attention of the Ombudsman.

Response to Victoria Legal Aid’s Means Test Review

Date of Submission: 20 September 2016

This submission suggests that VLA develop an online screening tool to assess eligibility; that VLA considers whether documentary requirements should be waived if a person is experiencing homelessness or unable to access their usual accommodation due to family violence; and that VLA should use greater discretion when considering financial information from financially associated persons. The submission also addresses issues with funding associated with preparation work by CLCs and obtaining expert reports.

Response to the RTA Review Consultation Paper

Date of Submission: 11 August 2016

IMCL believes that a central purpose of residential regulatory and policy framework in Victoria should be to ensure that rental properties are safe, structurally sound and fit for habitation. In light of this, IMCL made five recommendations in this submission: that the Act be amended to introduce mandatory minimum standards; the Act be amended to require a condition report for all residential tenancies and be accompanied by photographs; the Act be amended to allow VCAT to make orders allowing tenants to make modification where landlords are unreasonably withholding consent; the Act be amended to allow VCAT to make orders directing the Office of Housing to make disability modification; and that the 120 day Notice to Vacate for no reason be repealed.

Access to Justice Review

Date of Submission: 22 February 2016

In a submission to the Department of Justice and Regulation Victoria, IMCL recommends improving access to legal assistance by developing a database of services and information available in Victoria; supported the expansion of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms; and appointing additional Tribunal members to VCAT and amending legislation as to the enforceability of VCACT decisions. Additionally, the submission draws attention to the problem of increased demand for legal assistance coupled with a lack of stability in funding for the legal assistance sector.

Letter of Recommendations regarding Reform of Birth Registration

Date of Submission: 7 September 2015

In response to the Victorian Attorney General’s Department in its review of birth registration statements and birth certificates in Victoria, the IMCL highlights the confusion and anxiety regarding whether victims/survivors of family violence in being required to supply details of their child’s father in situations where they may have fears for their safety. IMCL recommends ensuring women are informed about their rights and entitlements, and are provided with resources for family violence and free legal services, and recommends that the process of registering births be amended to include a question about whether the applicant fears that family violence is an issue.

Submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence

Date of Submission: 29 May, 2015

Drawing on almost 40 years’ experience, IMCL’s submission adresses the need to expand and improve support available for victims of family violence. We recommend improving and increasing the availability of multi-disciplinary and holistic models of care; recognising that the antenatal and postnatal periods are high risk times for victim/survivors of family violence; amending the Birth Registration Statement to include information on service providers; the inclusion of respectful relationships education in the national curriculum; and that the intervention order framework be improved to better support victims of family violence.