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Proposals for new Coroners Act

Published: Thu 18 Dec 2003 11:54 AM
Proposals for new Coroners Act
Associate Justice Minister Margaret Wilson said today the Government has confirmed proposals to update the Coroners Act 1988 with new legislation to be introduced next year.
First signalled by the Minister in her speech to the Australasian Coroners’ Conference in October, the proposals have been developed following the review of country’s coronial system, which began with the Law Commission’s report in 2000.
Margaret Wilson said the new system would improve the quality, consistency and timeliness of coronial investigations and decision-making.
“It will also take better account of the diverse cultural and spiritual needs of families while maintaining the need to understand the causes and circumstances of death in a timely way.”
The key proposals are: Establishing the role of Chief Coroner Moving to a smaller number of mostly full-time, legally qualified coroners Ensuring family members are notified at significant steps of the coronial process Introducing a specific regime for body part retention and release Introducing procedures to manage relationships with coroners and statutory investigatory agencies Enhancing inquest hearing processes
“The Chief Coroner will lead the new coronial system,” said Margaret Wilson. “He or she will be responsible for developing guidelines to help consistency in decision-making, provide advice and support to coroners, and manage relationships between coroners and statutory investigatory agencies.”
The smaller number of coroners would not mean an end to the connection between coroners and local communities, Margaret Wilson said.
“Coroners will work in provincial areas as well as the main centres and travel on a circuit basis. Working on a full-time basis will enable coroners to spend time building relationships with communities, and educating people about the role of coroners.” Margaret Wilson said families would benefit from transparent and uniform procedures for the retention and release of bodies and body parts.
“Body parts or tissue will only be retained where it is necessary for the post-mortem and the coroner must advise the family where this is the case.
“Families will be given information about the coronial process and how it will affect them. They will be able to indicate to the coroner that they want to be kept informed at significant stages in the process.
“I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many coroners who have served our communities over the years,” Margaret Wilson said. “Coroners deal with many sad and difficult cases, where people have died in tragic circumstances. I have been impressed with coroners’ professionalism and dedication. It is an unenviable but vital role. I am delighted my Cabinet colleagues have agreed to support these proposals to reform and enhance the coronial system.”

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