Edition 22 - February 2009

Welcome to the 22nd edition of the Family Relationship Services Program (FRSP) Sector e-News.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the Christmas wishes sent to FRSP staff and I at Christmas time. We hope you had an enjoyable break and look forward to working with you all this year.

We have some interesting topics for you this month, including:

  • details about the assessment and training for registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners
  • an evaluation of the family law reforms: upcoming research with service providers
  • market research results for Keys to Living Together resources 
  • details on improvements to the child support estimator
  • details of legislative changes to child support
  • good news stories from Relationships Australia NSW
  • the training and roll out of the Father-inclusive practice guide and the Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide.

For new subscribers, FRSP Sector e-News is an ideal opportunity for you to reach approximately 600 subscribers, consisting of FRSP service providers, industry stakeholders and individuals, to share service delivery news or to raise any issues you think the sector should be aware of.

FRSP e-News seeks contributions from the sector on practice updates and policy issues relevant to the FRSP Sector. Should you have a topic of interest you feel the sector or industry stakeholders would be interested in please send it to the FRSP mailbox for consideration. Articles should be less than 300 words and in paragraph format.

To keep the FRSP e-News focussed on issues of interest to the FRSP, details about training opportunities can be emailed to Family Relationship Services Australia (FRSA) for consideration. Information about training and events held nationally can be found on the FRSA website.
To contribute to the next edition or to provide feedback about articles in this edition, please email frspe-news@dss.gov.au


Robyn Fleming
Branch Manager
Family Relationship Services Branch

“The opinions, comments and/or analysis expressed in this document are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and cannot be taken in any way as expressions of Government policy.”

Hot News

FRSP Online January Release

The January release of the FRSP Online application was successfully implemented on 5 February 2009.  We apologise for any inconvenience that might have been caused by the delay in deploying this release to production.

This major items included in this release are:

  • the ability for organisations to self administer their own user accounts and workers
  • the ability to enter more than one parenting agreement outcome
  • enhanced documentation and protocols for the transferring of data to FRSP Online when using an accredited client management system.

Additional information on these changes is available in the December FRSP Online newsletter or by contacting the Support Centre on 1300 137 305 or frsponline@dss.gov.au.

Sector News

Assessment and training for registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners

On 20 December 2008, following a tender process, the Attorney-General announced that the Australian Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Training Group would deliver subsidised assessments and training, to assist eligible family dispute resolution practitioners meet new nationwide accreditation standards.

The Australian FDR Training Group is a consortium of four registered training organisations. Namely:

  • the Australian Institute of Social Relations, (a division of Relationships Australia SA)
  • The Training Ground, (a division of Relationships Australia Victoria)
  • The Institute of Family Practice, (a division of Uniting Care Children, Young People and Families NSW)
  • the Australian Institute of Relationship Studies, (a division of Relationships Australia NSW).

From 1 July 2009, all FDR practitioners will need to meet the following three key competencies from the Vocational Graduate Diploma in FDR (CHC80207):

  • respond to family and domestic violence in family work (CHCDFV811A)
  • create an environment that supports the safety of vulnerable parties in dispute resolution (CHCDISP804A); and
  • operate in a family law environment (CHCFAM505A).

Between March and June 2009, the Australian FDR Training Group will offer the three required competencies in the form of two modules:
(1) Operate in a family law environment (CHCFAM505A) and
(2) Domestic violence and vulnerable parties (CHCDFV811A and CHCDISP804A).

Practitioners may elect to complete the modules through one (or a combination) of the following pathways:

  • Application for Recognition (for experienced practitioners who do not require further learning)
  • Training which will be available both online and face to face in every State and Territory.

A pathway selection guide will be made available to assist practitioners to choose the most suitable pathway for their situation.

To ensure the awarding of the competencies and subsequent processing of new registrations by 1 July 2009, practitioners must have completed all assessments and training by 31 May 2009. Therefore, eligible practitioners should enrol as early as possible.

Whilst subsidised assessments and training will be available only to practitioners registered by 28 February 2009, enrolments for the subsidy will remain available until 30 June 2009. However, it cannot be guaranteed that training and processing will be completed by 1 July 2009. Therefore, enrolled practitioners cannot issue section 60I certificates until they have been assessed as competent.

More information

Please direct any questions about the new accreditation standards or eligibility for the subsidised training to the Attorney-General’s Department Practitioner Registration Unit on 1800 025 255 or email fdrregistration@ag.gov.au.

Further information about the training and recognition process will progressively be made available on the Australian FDR Training Group website: www.fdrtraining.edu.au. Enrolments will officially commence on 1 March 2009.


Evaluation of the family law reforms: upcoming research with service providers

The Australian Institute of Family Studies is undertaking research about the changes to the family law system introduced by the Australian Government in July 2006. A key component of the evaluation is the Service Provision Project, which is exploring how the reforms are impacting on the family relationship services sector and its clients. The Service Provision Project comprises three main studies:

  • Qualitative interviews with service managers and staff
  • Web based surveys of family relationship services staff
  • A survey of clients who have attended FRSP services.

About 12 months ago, Institute researchers Kelly Hand and Lawrie Moloney visited family relationship service providers across Australia. Services taking part included Family Relationship Centres, the Family Relationship Advice Line and a number of different Early Intervention and Post Separation Services.

A second round of interviews with managers and staff has now commenced and Kelly and Lawrie plan to speak with the services included in the first round of interviews as well as some additional Family Relationship Centres and Post Separation Services. The interviews will be conducted between February and April and will be a mixture of face-to-face interviews and telephone interviews.

Unfortunately we cannot visit everyone as part of the qualitative study. However, if you do not participate in one of the qualitative interviews, you will be able to have your say about the impacts of the reforms on your service and your clients through the second web based survey of family relationship service staff, which will run during April this year.

Also during April, we will give clients who have recently attended family relationship services an opportunity to provide their own perspectives on the reforms via a confidential survey that will be distributed on the Institute’s behalf by the services they have attended.

Research already undertaken as part of the Service Provision Project has provided early insights into service providers’ experiences and perceptions of the impacts of the first year of the implementation of the reforms.

As the research progresses, findings from the qualitative interviews will be combined with those of the Staff Surveys and forthcoming Client Survey as well as information collected from legal professionals and families experiencing separation and divorce. This is to create an extensive understanding of the first three years of the implementation of the reforms.

If you would like to know more about the Service Provision Project, or you have any feedback or ideas for our research, please contact Kelly Hand (Manager, Service Provision Project) on 1800 352 275 or email familylawevaluation@aifs.gov.au

Keys to Living Together resources for men – market research results

In September 2008, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) commissioned market research to inform the development of a relationship resource for men in the Keys to Living Together suite.

Some of the key issues identified in the research about men’s relationship knowledge and help seeking behaviours were:

  • Older (40+) and separated men* have a higher level of relationship knowledge and a deeper understanding of how to maintain a functional relationship.
  • Men largely rely on their partners to ensure a happy and functioning relationship.
  • Strategies to improve relationships are likely to be actioned short-term and in a reactive fashion i.e. as a response once problems are apparent within the relationship.
  • Men are reluctant to actively seek advice or assistance, with most looking internally (from a family member or friend) rather than externally for any strategies to manage their relationships.

The research has shown significant gaps in participants’ relationship knowledge and has indicated the need for action to improve relationship knowledge and normalise support seeking behaviours among men. However, the research has also shown that existing strategies that have proven to be very successful in the past with other target audiences (i.e. the Keys DVD relationship education resources for newly committed couples, families having a baby and step-families), will not be effective in addressing the male specific issues raised in this research.

If you would like further information about the men’s research please contact the Family Relationship Service Branch (FRSB) on 02 6121 2306 or email frsp@dss.gov.au

*’Men’ in this text refers to men who took part in the market research.

Child Support Agency

Improvements to the child support estimator

The Child Support Agency (CSA) has updated the online child support estimator, making it easier for separated parents to estimate how much child support they may pay or receive.

Over the past three months, just over 42,000 customers used the estimator, with 19,917 visiting in the past month.

The estimator has a new ‘what if’ section that shows customers what their child support responsibilities will be if their current situation changes, such as their income or level of care.

We’ve looked at how customers enter information and simplified the process. We’ve also included more information about the child support formula so customers can understand how we work out child support.

We encourage you to tell separated parents about this valuable tool which is available on our website. The estimator cannot compare old and new estimates and does not include family assistance components. Customers who have more than one case will be unable to use this tool.

To use the estimator, customers can visit the CSA website at www.csa.gov.au and click on the child support estimator/FTB estimator in the resource section on the right hand side of the homepage.

Child support legislation changes

Last month some minor changes were made to the child support legislation about high child care costs in child support cases, care changes and payment reductions.

Further information about these changes is available on the Child Support Agency website. There is also information specifically for WA customers relating to these changes.

Separated parents will hear about the changes in Edition 10 of the Child Support Matters newsletter later this month.

Parent’s Guide has been updated

The Child Support Agency’s introductory booklet, The Parent’s Guide to Child Support, has been reviewed and updated. This resource helps newly separated parents learn about the Child Support Scheme and the services and options available. All parents receive this guide after they register with the CSA for child support.

Changes, such as tabbed chapters and a new index page, allow parents to more easily navigate through the information, and clear examples and information explaining how child support is calculated will help parents understand how the Child Support Scheme works.

To order your copy, call the CSA publications hotline on 1800 040 972 or visit our website and download a copy.

Good News Stories from Relationships Australia NSW

Black Santa

In order to provide an opportunity for local Indigenous families to visit and become familiar with the Bathurst Family Relationship Centre, the centre staff hosted a ‘Black Santa Christmas Party’ in December 2008.

Around 50 children and their families attended the event and were surprised by Santa, who gave goodie bags to everyone. During the event, children participated in arts and crafts, making Christmas cards and decorations. There were plenty of games and prizes to keep the kids entertained including pin the nose on the reindeer, pass the parcel and musical chairs.


In November 2008, Penrith region hosted a three day DRUMBEAT Facilitator Workshop. Holyoak, in partnership with The Song Room, developed the DRUMBEAT Program which is an early intervention program for ‘at-risk’ children and youth.

DRUMBEAT uses drumming to teach a range of social skills and lift self-esteem. It is a program for primary and secondary schools, youth centres, drug rehabilitation centres, and prisons. DRUMBEAT has proved particularly successful with indigenous youth and others who are alienated from society.

What Matters Most – national photo competition

Relationships Australia (NSW), in partnership with The Weekend Australia magazine, hosted a national photographic competition about relationships called ‘What Matters Most’. The aim was to highlight the importance of relationships in our lives, and indirectly, to reinforce the role of Relationships Australia as playing a leading role in supporting relationships across Australia over the past 60 years.

Over 1400 entries from around Australia were received and were judged by Relationships Australia (NSW).

As the major corporate partner, CUA (Credit Union Australia) sponsored the competition by placing ads promoting our new Business – Community partnership, as well as providing the first prize of $5000. Finalists also received cameras and or printers from the other sponsors, Olympus and Brother.

The winner, a 10 year old autistic boy, took a picture of his parents on the beach titled "Mum and Dad". According to his mother, her son had recently discovered photography as a way of communicating and engaging with the world around him.

Conferences and Training

Training and Roll Out of the Father-inclusive practice guide and the Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide

FaHCSIA has recently commissioned the development of two interactive and user friendly resources – the Father-inclusive practice guide and the Introduction to working with men and family relationships guide.

The resources are designed to assist service providers support the inclusion of fathers in a holistic approach to service delivery and to support practitioners working with men.

FaHCSIA plans to roll out the guides to all Family Relationship Service providers at a series of workshops facilitated by Andrew King from Crisis Support Services (Mensline Australia) and Dr Richard Fletcher from the University of Newcastle Family Action Centre. Up to two members from each FRSP provider organisation are invited to attend the workshops. Workshops are scheduled for:

  • Tasmanian and Victorian providers - Wednesday 18 March 2009 Conference room, FaHCSIA State Office, 3rd floor, Casselden Place, Melbourne
  • Queensland providers - Thursday 19 March 2009
    Meeting rooms, FaHSCIA State Offices, 3rd floor, 100 Creek Street GOP, Brisbane
  • NSW and ACT providers - Friday 20 March 2009
    Conference room, FaHCSIA State Offices, Level 8, 280 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills
  •  Western Australian providers - Tuesday 31 March 2009
    Conference room, FaHCSIA State Offices, Central Park Level 12, 152-158 Georges Terrace, Perth
  • Northern Territory and South Australia providers - Wednesday 1 April 2009
    Conference room, FaHCSIA State Offices, Level 18, 11 Waymouth Street, Adelaide 

Copies of the guides will be distributed on the day with lunch and refreshments provided. Some attendees may be eligible for travel assistance – details of eligibility are outlined below.

NOTE that approval for travel assistance must be obtained from the Departmental contact as indicated below PRIOR to booking. Also note that due to budget constraints reimbursement of travel costs is only available to ONE person per FRSP provider organisation.

The workshops will review how the two guides can be used to support the development of father-inclusive practice and help staff who work with male clients to strengthen the services provided to men and their families. Workshop participants will reflect on their current practices and develop possible future directions.

The workshops will be followed by a 90-minute group teleconference three to four weeks after the workshops, which will allow participants to review how the use of the father inclusive practice guide is progressing. The teleconference will be an opportunity to review each participant’s implementation and use of the guides along with group problem solving regarding any difficulties.

Outcomes for the workshops

Participants will:

  1. be introduced to the Introduction to working with men and family relations guide and the Father-inclusive practice guide
  2. explore strategies and suggestions on successfully implementing father-inclusive practice and practical working with men strategies into the workplace
  3. plan ways to assist providers to generate cultural change, build capacity and enhance father-inclusive practice
  4. become familiar with presentation material including additional handouts and case studies
  5. develop an action plan for the initial implementation of the father-inclusive practice process to be discussed in a teleconference following the initial workshop.

Information on facilitators

Dr Richard Fletcher is Leader of the Fathers and Families Research Program at the Family Action Centre, the University of Newcastle. He has many years experience delivering programs, designing resources and conducting research in the area of men and family relationships.

Andrew King is the Men’s Services Manager for Mensline Australia (Crisis Support Services). He is the Chairperson for the Institute of Group Leaders and a specialist trainer in group work and trains professionals throughout Australia in ‘working with men’. He is also an experienced practitioner and has published a range of professional articles.

If you would like to attend one of the workshops, please contact your FaHCSIA State Office representative.

2009 Institute of Group Leaders (IGL) Conference

Moments of Change in Group Work – Friday, Saturday 7 and 8 August 2009 - Wesley Conference Centre, 220 Pitt St, Sydney

This Conference is for:

  • Group facilitators who lead group programs in community organisations, Community Health Services, Corrective Services Programs, Youth Services, Mental Health and Child Protection Programs
  • Workplace trainers who use and wish to further develop group work processes and techniques.

To attend, register on the website - www.igl.org.au

To submit a workshop/paper abstract, complete the attached Word document attached - IGL Conference Abstract Submission Form

The focus for this conference is: Moments of change in group work. The theme will explore the connection between the cognitive and the intuitive aspects (clinical, experiential and relational spectrums) of group work.

The conference also promotes innovative evaluation and documentation of group work programs. One outcome of the conference will be the launch of the latest IGL endorsed group work programs.

Program format and presentation guideline

IGL is inviting presentations under the following categories:

  • Interactive Workshops (90 minutes) will have a participatory, interactive focus and clear outcomes.
  • Short paper presentations (22 minutes maximum plus 8 minutes for question and answer time) will be grouped with related topics in a chaired session. 2 – 3 papers per 1½ hour timeslot.
  • Poster and interactive exhibition presentations – on display for the full duration of conference and scheduled into the program. Presenters will need to register for at least that day and be available at their poster/exhibit to answer questions. Table and wall space specifications to be confirmed later.

For more information please contact

The Institute of Group Leaders
0425 285 163

Resource Updates

Have you got a great story to share?

We are in the process of putting together a collection of good news stories to showcase the support provided to families by FRSP service providers.  Stories received will be used in FaHCSIA reports, presentations and other public documents and publications.

We are after stories of varying length from 100 -500 words that capture best practice within the FRSP.  Please include the type of service delivered (e.g. Family Relationship Counselling, Family dispute Resolution) with a brief outline of the client’s circumstances, the support provided and the outcome. 

Stories received will be professionally edited to provide examples of the range of support available, so please only include information that you are happy to have changed. New stories received will be compiled with those already received in the status report. Please remember to de-identify any information sent. 

We are also after examples of positive quotes from clients about FRSP funded services.

If you have a good news story or positive quote that you would like to share, please send it to me by Friday 20 February 2009. In order to use the information provided in public documents we also need written permission to do so if your organisation or any person is named.

Please contact me on Bernadette.Backer@dss.gov.au or (02) 6212 2318 if you require further clarification. Otherwise we look forward to receiving your story and/or quote.

CSA produces a monthly e-newsletter

CSA is now producing a monthly e-newsletter which has information tailored for stakeholders.

It’s an update on events, products and information to assist you in supporting separated parents and their children.

CSA is keen to receive feedback or ideas for articles of interest to stakeholders. If you have feedback or a story idea please email stakeholders@csa.gov.au

You can access the e-newsletter at the following link:

Child Support Stakeholder News…working together to support separated families.

You can also subscribe to receive your monthly copy by email.


If you do not wish to receive FRSP Sector e-News, send an email to unsubscribe to frspe-news@dss.gov.au and include the subject header
Unsubscribe to FRSP Sector e-News.

If someone you know would like to subscribe to FRSP Sector e-News, have them email frspe-news@dss.gov.au and include the subject header
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We value your interest in this publication and seek your feedback about the articles published. Feedback notes will be kept confidential.
We also seek contributions from the sector. Should you have a topic of interest you feel the sector or industry stakeholders would be interested in, send it to the FRSP mailbox below for consideration. Those articles not selected will be saved and reconsidered for later editions.
Article contributions/feedback for the next edition is welcome by 13 February 2009. Edition 23 of the FRSP e-News will be emailed on 9 March 2009.

To provide feedback and/or to send topics of interest, email
frspe-news@dss.gov.au and include the subject header Feedback to FRSP Sector e-News.

Contact us

This e-newsletter is produced by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) in collaboration with the Attorney-General's Department.

To contact the editor, please email frspe-news@dss.gov.au.

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