In 1990, solicitors Stuart Fowler and Rod Burr, (both former Chairs of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and Judges of the Family Court of Australia) were invited to Hong Kong to address the Council of LawAsia, an organisation which represents lawyers and lawyers’ organisations in some 24 countries in the Asia and Pacific Region. The then Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, the Hon. Alastair Nicholson AO RTD QC also accompanied them.
The Council of LawAsia sought assistance from the three in establishing a Family Law and Family Rights section of LawAsia that focussed on the human rights of families and children in the region and elsewhere. The World Congress on Family Law and Human Rights was then established.
The First World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights was convened in Sydney, Australia in July 1993.
From its inception, the World Congress was designed and promoted to be “result orientated”. It was not simply to be a “talk fest”. Rather it was to achieve outcomes.
Since 1993 the World Congress has:
- Promoted laws which were subsequently enacted by the Australian Parliament which operated extraterritorially and which rendered justiciable and punishable before Australian Courts, offences committed by its residents in abusing children overseas. This model of legislation has now been echoed in legislation passed in many countries throughout the world.
- Sponsored the creation of the LawAsia Children’s Trust and contributed the sum in the order of $160,000 towards the Trust to be administered by LawAsia’s Family Law & Family Rights Section. It has been used for a number of child orientated purposes including the support of Asian prosecutors of offences against children.
- Been a catalyst for change in its condemnation and, where appropriate, commendation of actions and policies of States which uphold the rights of children.
- Raised with multi-national corporations the issue of adoption of voluntary codes of conduct in the employment and treatment of children not only in their respective enterprises, but in enterprises supplying their manufacturing. The Congress sought to encourage this form of self-regulation and its work continues on this task.
- Contributed funds towards the building of two schools in Central America and a community farming plot for Central American women whose husbands were some thousands of kilometres away, working in mines.