State child welfare departments and federal family law matters



Publication Details

F. Bell, 'State Child Welfare Departments and Federal Family Law Matters' (2016) 6 (3) Family Law Review 218-225.


In a recent article titled "Public Law Issues in a Private Law System", his Honour Justice Robert Benjamin wrote of the problematic interface between State and federal jurisdictions dealing with the welfare of children.1 Justice Benjamin noted the straightened circumstances of State child welfare departments across Australia, and a reluctance at times to intervene when a child is already involved in the federal system.2 His Honour had experienced this reluctance first-hand in Ray v Males, when the Secretary of the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services refused to become involved in proceedings brought under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), even where the Family Court held serious concerns about the safety of any proposed placement for the child.3 More recently still, Judge Brown of the Federal Circuit Court similarly recorded in a judgment his dismay at the choice of the Department of Education and Child Development (Families SA) not to intervene in a family law case where the Judge perceived serious deficiencies in parenting.4

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