Melbourne Law School - Research Publications

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    Reproductive coercion and abuse among pregnancy counselling clients in Australia: trends and directions
    Sheeran, N ; Vallury, K ; Sharman, LS ; Corbin, B ; Douglas, H ; Bernardino, B ; Hach, M ; Coombe, L ; Keramidopoulos, S ; Torres-Quiazon, R ; Tarzia, L (BMC, 2022-07-30)
    BACKGROUND: Reproductive coercion and abuse (RCA) interferes with a person's reproductive autonomy and can be classified into behaviours that are pregnancy promoting or pregnancy preventing (including coerced abortion). However, prevalence data are lacking, and little is known about whether particular forms of RCA are more or less common. The aims of our study were to explore how frequently people seeking pregnancy counselling reported RCA, the proportions reporting the different forms of RCA, and whether there were different trends based on a range of demographic factors. METHODS: Data were collected from 5107 clients seeking counselling support for their pregnancy between January 2018 and December 2020 from two leading providers of pregnancy counselling and sexual and reproductive health services in Australia, Marie Stopes Australia and Children by Choice. Counsellors identified and recorded the presence of RCA and whether the behaviour was pregnancy promoting and/or pregnancy preventing. Demographic factors included age, and whether the person identified as being from a migrant or refugee community or as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. RESULTS: RCA was identified in 15.4% of clients, with similar proportions disclosing RCA towards pregnancy (6%) and towards pregnancy prevention or abortion (7.5%), and 1.9% experiencing RCA towards pregnancy and abortion concurrently. There were no differences based on age or whether the person identified as being from a migrant or refugee background, though people who identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander experienced RCA that was significantly more likely to be pregnancy promoting. CONCLUSIONS: RCA is commonly disclosed by people seeking support in a pregnancy counselling context, and coercion and abuse is equally likely to be towards pregnancy promotion or pregnancy prevention/abortion. Given the prevalence and negative impacts of RCA, regardless of age and background, we recommend sensitive and culturally respectful enquiry around experiences of RCA be embedded in healthcare, health education, and health research.
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    Biomodifying the 'natural': from Adaptive Regulation to Adaptive Societal Governance
    Mourby, M ; Bell, J ; Morrison, M ; Faulkner, A ; Li, P ; Bicudo, E ; Webster, A ; Kaye, J (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2022-01-01)
    Biomodifying technologies-such as gene editing, induced pluripotent stem cells, and bioprinting-are being developed for a wide range of applications, from pest control to lab-grown meat. In medicine, regulators have responded to the challenge of evaluating modified 'natural' material as a therapeutic 'product' by introducing more flexible assessment schemes. Attempts have also been made to engage stakeholders across the globe on the acceptable parameters for these technologies, particularly in the case of gene editing. Regulatory flexibility and stakeholder engagement are important, but a broader perspective is also needed to respond to the potential disruption of biomodification. Our case-study technologies problematize basic ideas-such as 'nature', 'product', and 'donation'-that underpin the legal categories used to regulate biotechnology. Where such foundational concepts are rendered uncertain, a socially responsive and sustainable solution would involve exploring evolutions in these concepts across different societies. We suggest that the global observatory model is a good starting point for this 'Adaptive Societal Governance' approach, in which a self-organizing network of scholars and interested parties could carry out the multi-modal (meta)analyses needed to understand societal constructions of ideas inherent to our understanding of 'life'.
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    Regulating Libra
    Zetzsche, DA ; Buckley, RP ; Arner, DW (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2021-03-01)
    Libra is the first private cryptocurrency with the potential to change the landscape of global payment and monetary systems. Due to the scale and reach provided by its affiliation with Facebook, the question is not whether, but how, to regulate it. This article introduces the Libra project and analyses the potential responses open to regulators worldwide. We conclude that perhaps the greatest impact will come not from Libra itself, but rather from reactions to it, particularly by other BigTechs, incumbent financial institutions and governments around the world.
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    Australian Family Property Law Current Issues and Challenges
    Fehlberg, B ; Sarmas, L ; Choudhry, S ; Herring, J (CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 2019-01-01)
    There are several reasons why it seems important to focus on Australian family property law now. In May 2017, the Australian Federal Attorney General announced a major review of the family law system, to be undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission. The inquiry's widely cast terms of final report is due by 31 March 2019.
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    The perils and pitfalls of formal equality in australian family law reform
    Fehlberg, B ; Sarmas, L ; Morgan, J (SAGE Publications, 2018-01-01)
    In this paper, we identify the influence of formal equality—and more specifically, formal gender equality (that is, treating men and women the same)—in central areas of major Australian family law reform over the past 20 years. Given the influence of formal equality and our concerns regarding this trend, we consider whether equality-based arguments should be abandoned entirely, at least in the family law context, and explore alternative approaches that could reframe the debate.
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    Exploring separated fathers' understandings and experiences of 'home' and homemaking
    Campo, M ; Fehlberg, B ; Natalier, K ; Smyth, BM (ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2021-07-03)
    This paper considers fathers’ understandings and experiences of home after relationship separation–an issue that has received little research attention to date–through interviews with four separated fathers conducted as part of a larger qualitative study. Key themes to emerge were: the significance attached by participant fathers to home and homemaking through their focus on everyday interactions; the concern that their home might be viewed by children as secondary; and a sense of the vulnerability and transience of home arising from their children’s presence and absence. Viewed overall, the fathers in this study conveyed their determination to offer their children a loving, stable, and secure home life as a fundamental dimension of their commitment to post-separation fathering while also describing key challenges they experienced in doing so.
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    The meaning of home for children and parents after parental separation: Recent insights from a qualitative study
    Fehlberg, B ; Campo, M ; Smyth, B ; Natalier, K (LexisNexis Australia, 2021)
    In this article, we draw on our recent study on the meaning of home for children and young people in separated families to offer some insights of relevance to Australian post-separation parenting law and practice. We identify the centrality of relationships, safety, and economic resources in shaping home. Our project findings convey the importance of listening to what children and young people — and their parents — say about home and homemaking after parental separation as a way of shedding light on what is most needed to support their adjustment and encouraging greater child focus when parenting arrangements are made.
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    The use of fire and threats to burn in the context of domestic and family violence and coercive control
    Douglas, H (Taylor and Francis Group, 2022-07-23)
    Fire can be harnessed by abusive partners or ex-partners in their efforts to maintain and regain control in an abusive relationship. Reports about the use of fire in the context of domestic and family violence are not uncommon in the media, with incidents of house fires, burning cars and using fire to kill or cause harm and threats to burn ex-partners and children being regularly reported. This article analyses 49 reported legal cases where the offender has been found guilty of a criminal offence when they used or threatened to use fire to cause harm in the context of domestic and family violence. It considers how fire is used in abusive relationships to exert control, and it examines the co-occurrence of mental health and drug misuse issues in the cases. The article concludes that fire departments are an important part of the domestic and family violence safety system. It also identifies that the use of fire as a tool of abuse in the context of domestic and family violence is under-examined in Australia and makes some suggestions for further research.
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    Where does responsibility lie? Analysing legal and regulatory responses to flawed clinical decision support systems when patients suffer harm
    PRICTOR, MEGAN (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2022-07-15)
    Clinical decision support systems (CDSSs) are digital healthcare information systems that apply algorithms to patient data to generate tailored recommendations. They are designed to support, but neither dictate nor execute, clinical decisions. CDSSs can introduce new risks, both by design features that heighten clinician burden and by outright errors that generate faulty recommendations for care. In the latter instance, if such unintercepted recommendations were to result in harm to the patient, novel legal questions emerge. Does legal responsibility for this harm lie with the clinician, the software developer or both? What is the clearest path to a remedy? Further, how does the Australian regulatory framework provide for oversight and redress? This article analyses the potential forms of legal redress in negligence, contract and under statutory consumer law, for the patient and the clinician. It also examines the Australian regulatory framework, specifically in relation to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and reflects on the framework's adequacy to protect patients and clinicians. It finds that the regulatory approach and the contour of legal risk still centre upon the clinician's duty to exercise decisional autonomy and to intercept flawed recommendations generated by algorithmic errors within CDSSs.
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    The long-term impact of bushfires on the mental health of Australians: a systematic review and meta-analysis
    Zhang, Y ; Workman, A ; Russell, MA ; Williamson, M ; Pan, H ; Reifels, L (TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2022-12-31)
    Background: The long-term health effects of bushfires include the potential to trigger new and exacerbate existing mental health problems. Objective: This review aimed to determine the prevalence of long-term mental health issues in Australian populations exposed to bushfires. Method: A systematic search was conducted in five databases (Embase, Medline, PsycINFO, Scopus, and Web of Science) to identify studies focusing on Australian populations impacted by bushfires with the prevalence of mental health issues reported at 2+ years after bushfire. The Joanna Briggs Institute prevalence critical appraisal tool was utilised. We conducted meta-analyses to determine the prevalence of general psychological distress in the general population, and a narrative synthesis. Results: We included 21 articles based on 5 studies and conducted on 3 bushfire events. Meta-analyses showed a pooled prevalence of 14% (95% CI 12%-16%) for psychological distress in the general population at 2-4 years post bushfire. The overall prevalence of long-term psychological problems in firefighters at 2-7 years ranged from 28% to 47.6%. The prevalence of some psychological issues decreased with time and was directly proportional to the level of bushfire impact. Conclusions: As the magnitude of long-term bushfire-related mental health impacts in Australia is severe, it is important to monitor psychological problems and assist communities in future. Future research needs include: (a) more studies on the full range of long-term psychological impacts of bushfires, and (b) consensus on instruments and diagnostic criteria to define mental health issues. HIGHLIGHTS: First systematic review of long-term bushfire mental health issues in Australia.Indicating substantial mental health problems among affected populations.Long-term issues were linked to bushfire impact and elevated among firefighters.Highlighting need for further rigorous research on long-term disaster sequalae.