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Appointments to the Family Law Council

Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash
Media Release

I am pleased to announce the appointment of eleven new members to the Family Law Council. The Family Law Council is an independent body of experts that will provide valued advice to myself, as Attorney-General, on family law matters.

The Hon Robert McClelland, Deputy Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, has been appointed as Chairperson of the Council.

The following people have been appointed as members:

  • Dr Andrew Bickerdike
  • Dr Jacoba Brasch QC
  • Dr Rachel Carson
  • The Hon John Faulks
  • Judge Alexandra Harland
  • Ms Michelle Hayward
  • Ms Anne Hollonds
  • Ms Julie Jackson
  • Dr Rae Kaspiew
  • Ms Virginia Wilson

All appointments commenced from 7 December 2021 and are for a three year period.

Biographies for the appointees are below.

On behalf of the Australian Government, I congratulate the new Chairperson and members on their appointments. I am confident that the appointees will perform their roles with distinction and a shared commitment to achieving a family law system that is safe, fair and child focused.

Chair

The Hon Robert McClelland was appointed Deputy Chief Judge (Family Law) of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia in 2021. His Honour was appointed to the Family Court of Australia in 2015 and was appointed Deputy Chief Justice in 2018. In this role, he chairs the Court Performance Committee and is a member of the Policy Advisory Committee of the Family Court. His Honour is a former politician who served as the Commonwealth Attorney General from 2007 to 2011, where he introduced significant amendments to the family law system, such as extending jurisdiction over the financial affairs of de facto spouses. Prior to entering politics, His Honour practised as a solicitor at Turner Freeman Lawyers.

Members

Dr Andrew Bickerdike has been the Chief Executive Officer of Relationships Australia Victoria since 2010 and has practiced as a mediator and family dispute resolution practitioner for more than 20 years. He was a part-time Commissioner for the ALRC's review of the family law system. Dr Bickerdike has significant experience and specialist training in individual, marital and family therapy and has initiated and implemented many research projects examining the efficacy of family services programs. He sits on multiple family law committees, including as founding member of the Australian Dispute Resolution Advisory Council. He was the former Board Chair of Relationships Australia National.

Dr Jacoba Brasch QC was admitted to the Bar in 2000 and was appointed as Queen's Counsel in 2014. She has a specialty in family law, particularly difficult children's matters, domestic violence, child protection and mental health issues. She has appeared in the High Court of Australia in Family Law and Hague Convention (Child Abduction) matters. Dr Brasch is the 2021 President of the Law Council of Australia and served as Chair of both the Law Council of Australia's Family Violence Taskforce and Family Law Committee.

Dr Rachel Carson is a family lawyer and socio-legal researcher who joined the Family Law and Violence team at the Australian Institute of Family Studies in 2012. She is currently researching issues surrounding compliance with, and enforcement of, family law parenting orders. Dr Carson has authored numerous research reports and was the lead author on the report 'Children and young people in separated families: Family law system experiences and needs' (June 2018) that involved speaking with 61 young people whose parents had separated and turned to the family law system.

The Hon John Faulks is a family law mediator and former Deputy Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia. He retired as a Judge in 2016 after 22 years of service to the Family Court of Australia. His many contributions to the court included oversight of the Magellan project, which was introduced by the Family Court to specifically manage cases involving allegations of child abuse. In 2017 he was appointed as a part-time ALRC Commissioner to assist in its review of the family law system. He has previously served as a member of the Family Law Council, including as Chairperson from 1992 to 1995.

Judge Alexandra Harland was appointed to the Federal Circuit Court in 2013 and has practiced family law at Legal Aid NSW as a duty lawyer and solicitor advocate. From 2008 to 2012 she lectured in family law at the University of Sydney and has had articles published on a wide range of family law topics, including children's rights, surrogacy and de-facto relationships. She sits on a number of notable committees, both nationally and internationally, and is the President Elect of the Australian Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.

Ms Michelle Hayward is the Managing Solicitor of the Family Law Practice of the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW. She has specialised in the area of family law, child protection and family violence prevention for more than 12 years, including in the context of representing Aboriginal children and victim survivors of family violence involved in the family law legal system. Ms Hayward is an Independent Children's Lawyer and is responsible for providing parent and child representation within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander List in the Sydney Registry of the Federal Circuit Court.

Ms Anne Hollonds was appointed National Children's Commissioner in November 2020. She has over 20 years' experience in the sector of child wellbeing, with a professional background as a psychologist and social worker. She was the Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies prior to her appointment as Commissioner, and has extensive front-line experience in child protection, child and family therapy, mental health and parenting education in organisations such as Relationships Australia NSW and the Benevolent Society. She is a member of the National Children's Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy Steering Group and the New South Wales Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault Council.

Ms Julie Jackson has been Director of the Family Law Division at Legal Aid WA for 10 years, with particular expertise in family law and representing children in protection and care. She has worked at Legal Aid WA for more than 35 years and is the Convenor of the Family and Domestic Violence Advisory Network and Former Chair of the Western Australia Family Pathways Network. She was named Western Australian Woman Lawyer of the Year in 2009.

Dr Rae Kaspiew is a socio-legal researcher with expertise in family law and family violence. She manages the Family Law and Family Violence research program at the Australian Institute of Family Studies and has been the lead author of two large-scale evaluations of the 2006 and 2012 waves of reforms in family law. Dr Kaspiew was a Principal Legal Officer on the ALRC's review of the family law system. She previously served as a member of Family Law Council, from 2010 to 2016, as well as the Violence Against Women Advisory Group, from 2009 to 2011, that advised the federal Minister for the Status of Women on the implementation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women.

Ms Virginia Wilson is the Deputy Principal Registrar, Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. She commenced with the Courts in 2017, and has held acting positions as Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar of the Courts. She has been instrumental in the development and delivery of significant reform pieces within the courts. Prior to joining the Courts, Ms Wilson had an extensive career in the public service, including in the Attorney General's Department.