The use and impact of legal solutions to consumer over-indebtedness: a comparison of Australian and Dutch approaches

Nicola Howell
PhD Candidate, Melbourne Law School

This PhD research project focuses on several options provided in the law for people who are over-indebted, including bankruptcy, debt agreements, and financial hardship assistance. These options are used by many people each year, but there is limited research on the impact of the different options, including the impact on the financial wellbeing of debtors. The project therefore aims to understand how the different options are used and experienced, and whether the main options meet their regulatory objectives and/or improve debtor financial wellbeing.

The project also compares the options in Australia with those available to Dutch debtors. This will enable examination of some features (absent in the main Australian options) that are thought to contribute to improved outcomes for debtors. To examine these issues, this project combines quantitative data (online surveys) and qualitative data (research interviews and voice memos) provided by participants in Australia and in the Netherlands.

Supervisors: Professors Ian Ramsay and Jeannie Paterson

Funding: Melbourne University Research Training Scholarship; Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship; Melbourne Law School (Research Support Funds, Fieldwork Support Funds); QUT Law Faculty Professional Development Leave


  • 'Researching Personal Insolvency Law and Practice in Australia: an update and call for continued investment’ (2018) 26(2) Insolvency Law Journal 108
  • 'Assessing the effectiveness of consumer bankruptcy by measuring changes in the financial wellbeing of debtors’, Presentation to Law and Society Association, Annual Meeting, Washington DC, June 2019
  • Engagement: ‘Credit, debt and personal insolvency in Australia: an overview’ (December 2018; information paper distributed to interested practitioners and policy makers in the Netherlands)

    Hazel G Genn, Martin Partington and Sally Wheeler, Law in the Real World - Improving Our Understanding of How Law Works: Final Report and Recommendations (Nuffield Foundation 2006) 1 accessed 21 May 2012.