A full-time family liaison officer will be introduced to the ACT Coroners Court in one of several moves designed to "put people rather than dispassionate processes at the centre of the system".
Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay made the announcement on Thursday, when he also introduced to the ACT Legislative Assembly a bill containing several amendments to the Coroners Act.
Mr Ramsay said the bill was developed as part of the "Canberra as a restorative city" initiative, which promotes support, accountability and respect in problem-solving.
But members of the Coronial Reform Group, which has spent years campaigning for change, have expressed disappointment at what they feel was a lack of consultation before the bill was tabled.
The bill contains amendments to the Coroners Act that include giving coroners the power to correct errors or omissions in their findings.
"This change will have a profound impact on families, by avoiding costly and potentially re-traumatising experiences of having to go through Supreme Court proceedings to ensure that public reports about their loved one are accurate," Mr Ramsay told the Assembly on Thursday.
Other amendments include extending the definition of "immediate family" to include step-parents, and expressly stating in the Coroners Act that the immediate family should be invited to participate in the coronial process at the earliest possible opportunity.
The minimum notice period required before hearings would double from 14 days to 28, and the legislation would change to specify that cultural considerations be respected throughout the process.
Deaths that occur when a person is subject to orders under the Mental Health Act would also be referred to as deaths in care, rather than in custody.
Introducing the Coroners Amendment Bill 2020, Mr Ramsay told the Assembly its key reforms came from "a place of passionate concern".
"Clearly, it is essential that we discover, where we can, the cause of a death and address any matters which can prevent others occurring," he said.
"Importantly, people involved in coronial matters are often in grief and we know that the way we engage with people in grief can be as important as what is said and discussed."
He said the bill would also allow him to make guidelines for government responses to comments or recommendations made by the coroner about matters of public safety.
"This amendment directly responds to concerns raised by families about a need for increased clarity about what happens with coroners' recommendations [and] why in some cases they are not accepted, as well as the processes which will be, or are, in place to manage the issues raised in the coronial findings," Mr Ramsay said.
"Families want to have a better understanding of what has been done to prevent deaths like that of their loved ones from happening again."
Mr Ramsay's spokesman confirmed that as part of this, the ACT government intended to create an online register of all published coronial reports that raised matters of public safety. The register would include government responses to the issues identified.
In his speech to the Assembly, Mr Ramsay acknowledged the "momentum for change" created by engagement with families who had lived experience of the coronial system.
But members of the Coronial Reform Group, comprised of three Canberra women who each had bad experiences with the system after the death of a son, told The Canberra Times they were disappointment by what they felt was a lack of consultation.
Eunice Jolliffe said the group had written to Mr Ramsay in December, following a coronial reform forum the previous month, but received no reply to their letter.
She said the group asked on several occasions about what might be included in the bill, but did not have an opportunity to see it until after it was tabled on Thursday.
"We are supposed to be setting up a restorative, collaborative process, and the way this [consultation] has been handled has not been at all a good example of that," she said.
Another member, Rosslyn Williams, said the group was "furious" about the lack of communication from the government since the November forum, where she felt families' voices had not been heard.
"The government has been talking about wanting to act in a restorative manner, but there's been very little evidence of that so far," she said.
The Assembly's debate on the Coroners Amendment Bill 2020 was adjourned on Thursday.