About the Commission

The Commission is an independent statutory authority established under the Act that assists in keeping the law up-to-date and relevant to the needs of the Western Australian community by making recommendations for the reform of areas of law referred to it by the Attorney General.
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Left to right: Ms Jean Shaw, The Hon Lindy Jenkins and Associate Professor Meredith Blake
Left to right: Ms Jean Shaw, The Hon Lindy Jenkins and Associate Professor Meredith Blake

The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia assists in keeping the law up-to-date and relevant to the needs of society. Upon being referred a matter by the Attorney General, the Commission critically examines the law with respect to that matter, and reports to the Attorney General on the results of the examination of that law and makes any recommendations with respect to the reform of that law, that it considers to be desirable. 

In examining the law to which the reference relates, the Commission also considers whether the law:

  1. is obsolete, unnecessary, incomplete or otherwise defective; or
  2. ought to be changed so as to accord with modern conditions; or
  3. contains anomalies; or
  4. ought to be simplified, consolidated, codified, repealed or revised, and, if appropriate, whether new or more effective methods for the administration of that law should be developed.

The Attorney General tables the Commission's reports in Parliament as required by the Law Reform Commission Act 1972.

Matters referred by the Attorney General may result from proposals for law reform made by members of the public. In this regard, the Commission welcomes suggestions for law reform projects.

The Law Reform Commission does not offer legal advice or deal with legal complaints of any nature. The Commission cannot intervene in individual cases nor deal with any matters representative of the legal system or the legal profession.

While the Commission encourages students to access materials on this site for research purposes, it is not resourced to assist with assignments.

Brief history of the Commission

In the 1960s the need for permanent attention to issues of law reform was keenly felt throughout the Commonwealth. In the words of Mr Brand, then Premier of Western Australia, ‘[w]e inherited a substantial body of English law in our foundation year, 1829, and many important areas of law are inadequately covered by statute’ [The West Australian, 9 January 1968]. The establishment of the English and Scottish Law Commissions in 1965 was one of the inspirations for a permanent law reform body in Western Australia.

Law Reform Committee

The first official law reform body in Western Australia, the Law Reform Committee, was established by a Cabinet decision of September 1967. After discussions with key stakeholder groups, Arthur Griffith, then Minister for Justice, and the Cabinet decided that the Committee would be constituted by three part-time members: a private practitioner; a representative of the University of Western Australia's Law School; and a representative of the Crown Law Department.

The founding members were Mr Barry Rowland, a senior partner in a legal firm, Dr Eric Edwards, Reader in Law at the University of Western Australia, and Mr Clyde Langoulant, Senior Legal Assistant with the Crown Law Department. The first meeting of the Committee was held on 15 January 1968.

The birth of the Commission

Initially, the Law Reform Committee acted as a part-time body. However, it soon became clear to the members that the Committee required permanent status if it was to effectively perform the role of continuing law reform.

In 1969, Dr Edwards, the academic member of the Committee, embarked on a study visit to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and India. He met with officials of a number of permanent law reform bodies in those countries to discuss and observe the daily operations of those institutions. Upon his return to Australia, Dr Edwards’ first-hand observations and experiences were invaluable in aiding the Law Reform Committee to propose the establishment of a permanent law reform body in Western Australia.

On 31 October 1972 the Law Reform Committee was granted permanent status as the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia by the Law Reform Commission Act 1972 (WA). (The Committee was formally reconstituted as a Commission upon proclamation of the Law Reform Commission Act 1972 (WA) on 19 January 1973.) The new Commission was established as a statutory body to operate independently from the executive and legislative branches of government. The requirements for the position of the academic member of the Commission were expanded to allow for the appointment of senior legal academics from any Western Australian university. In 1978 amendment to the Act permitted the appointment of two full-time members and increased the membership of the Commission to five.

Members past and present

Throughout its history, the Commission has been fortunate to enjoy the contributions and services of many outstanding members. David Malcolm, former Chief Justice of Western Australia, served as a member of the Law Reform Commission from February 1975 to January 1982; Wayne Martin, former Chief Justice of Western Australia, served as a member from October 1996 to September 2001. Other past members include: Richard Harding, the inaugural Inspector of Custodial Services in Western Australia, who served on the Commission from January 1974 to January 1977; Daryl Williams, former Federal Attorney-General, who served on the Commission from January 1982 to January 1986; Robert French, former Chief Justice of the High Court, who served on the Commission from January 1986 to November 1986; Robert Cock, former Judge of the District Court, who served on the Commission from October 1996 to September 1999; Lindy Jenkins, former Judge of the Supreme Court, who served on the Commission from December 1999 to August 2001 and was re-appointed in September 2020; Ralph Simmonds, formerly a Judge of the Supreme Court, who served on the Commission from January 1997 to February 2004; Joseph McGrath, now a Judge of the Supreme Court, who served on the Commission from November 2008 to February 2010; and Gillian Braddock, now a judge of the District Court, who served on the Commission from October 2002 to November 2008.

Structure of the Commission

In 1997, the Commission radically restructured its operations and reduced its full-time staff to one - the Executive Officer - who has charge of the day-to-day business of the Commission. In October 2004 the Commission also engaged a full-time Executive Assistant. The Commission engaged additional temporary staff to provide research, writing, editing, and administrative services as required. This allowed individuals who would not previously have been able to participate in the process of law reform to bring their unique and special skills to the Commission’s law reform activities.

On 1 July 2014 responsibility for the Commission was transferred to the Department of the Attorney General (DotAG). On 1 July 2017 DotAG and the Department of Corrective Services were officially amalgamated to for the Department of Justice (DoJ). DoJ is now tasked with providing all administrative support to the Commission from its own resources. This continues on from a previous service agreement with DotAG that saw administrative assistance provided to the Commission in areas including accounting, information technology provision and payroll. The Commission’s external researchers and project writers are sourced through an open and transparent tender process, thus ensuring that the best available resources can be utilised by the Commission when outsourcing some or all of its requirements.

Current Members

The Commission currently has one full-time member and two part-time members appointed by the Governor of Western Australia. The Commission may consist of up to five members (two full-time and three part-time). Of the part-time members, one is to be a private legal practitioner with not less than eight years’ experience; one is to be a person engaged in the teaching of law at a university in the State and one must be an officer of the State Solicitor's Office.

Past Members

Law Reform Committee

BJ Rowland - 15 Jan 1968 to 18 Jan 1973
EJ Edwards - 15 Jan 1968 to 30 Nov 1968; 9 Dec 1969 to 18 Jan 1973
C le B Langoulant - 15 Jan 1968 to 18 Jan 1973
IWP McCall - 1 Dec 1968 to 8 Dec 1969

Law Reform Commission

BJ Rowland - 19 Jan 1973 to 18 Jan 1975; Chairman 1973
EJ Edwards - 19 Jan 1973 to 18 Jan 1974
EG Freeman - 19 Jan 1973 to 13 Aug 1982; Chairman 1974 to 1975; 1977 to 1978; 1982
RW Harding - 19 Jan 1974 to 18 Jan 1977; Chairman 1975 to 1976
DK Malcolm - 19 Jan 1975 to 18 Jan 1982; Chairman 1976 to 1977; 1979 to 1982
NH Crago - 19 Jan 1977 to 18 Jan 1980; Chairman 1978 to 1979
CW Ogilvie - 1 Oct 1979 to 28 Feb 1991; Chairman 1982 to 1983; 1987 to 1988
HH Jackson - 3 Jan 1980 to 18 Apr 1986; Chairman 1983 to 1984
LL Proksch - 19 Jan 1980 to 18 Jan 1984
DR Williams - 19 Jan 1982 to 18 Jan 1986; Chairman 1984 to 1985
JA Thomson - 13 Aug1982 to 11 Aug 1986; 1 Sep 1987 to 31 Aug 1993; Chairman 1985 to 1986; 1990 to 1991
PW Johnston - 19 Jan 1984 to 18 Jan 1988; Chairman 1986 to 1987
RS French - 19 Jan 1986 to 25 Nov 1986
ME Rayner - 7 Jul 1986 to 17 May 1990; Chairman 1988 to 1990
JR Packington - 23 Sep 1986 to 30 Aug 1987
MC Lee - 26 May 1987 to 12 Feb 1988
G Syrota - 19 Jan 1988 to 18 Jan 1991
RL le Mière - 16 Mar 1988 to 15 Mar 1992
MD Pendleton - 19 Jan 1991 to 18 Jan 1994; Chairman 1991 to 1993
CJ McLure - 28 Oct 1992 to 31 Dec 1995; Chairman 1993 to 1994
PR Handford - 7 Dec 1993 to 31 Dec 1995
PG Creighton - 19 Jan 1994 to 18 Jan 1997; Chairman 1994 to 1996 
PP Eldred - 22 Nov 1994 to 20 Feb 1995 
RE Cock - 22 Oct 1996 to 14 Sep 1999 
WS Martin - 22 Oct 1996 to 22 Oct 2002; Chairman 1997 to 2001
RL Simmonds - 20 Jan 1997 to 23 Feb 2004; Chairman 2001 to 2004
CF Jenkins - 29 Dec 1999 to 31 Aug 2001
CN Kendall - 23 Feb 2004 to 15 Feb 2006
I Petersen - 17 Dec 2001 to 17 Dec 2007
G Braddock - 22 Oct 2002 to 30 Nov 2008; Chair 2005 to 2008
R Mitchell - 17 Dec 2007 to 17 Aug 2011
J McGrath - 30 Nov 2008 to 8 Feb 2010
MA Kenny - 15 Feb 2006 to 15 Feb 2012; Chair 2009 to 2012
R Douglas - 1 June 2010 to 31 May 2014; Chair 2012 to 2014
A Sefton - 26 August 2011 to 25 August 2015
A Zimmermann - 22 July 2012 to 21 July 2017
E Webb - 15 August 2017 to 14 August 2019
F Seaward - 26 August 2015 to 20 November 2019
Dr DB Cox - 6 August 2014 to 5 August 2020; Chair 2014 to 2020
Dr SL Murray – 15 August 2019 to 13 November 2023
KJ Chivers – 21 November 2019 to 20 November 2023

Executive Officers

CW Ogilvie - 28 Jul 1969 to 31 Sep 1979
PH Clarke - 1 Feb 1980 to 1 Jan 1983
PR Handford - 16 May 1983 to 15 Feb 1998
MA Brewer - 16 Feb 1998 to 28 Jan 2001
H Kay – 1 March 2002 to 9 March 2014
D Fernandes – 1 July 2015 to 31 August 2022

Public Interest Disclosures

A guide to public interest disclosures in WA public authorities.

The Public Sector Commission publishes a number of information products and resources for those who are, or may be, involved in a disclosure of public interest information in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003 (PID Act).

The Public Sector Commission's A guide to public interest disclosures in WA public authorities is the main source of information relating to public interest disclosures.