Edition 27 - July 2009

Welcome to the 27th edition of the Family Relationship Services (FRS) Sector e-News.

Some of the interesting topics for you this month include:

  • Upcoming changes to Family Relationship Services
  • Consortia Management Training
  • Summary Report from Family Relationship Service Humanitarian Entrants Forum
  • Changes to Child Support Legislation

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

To keep the FRS e-News focussed on issues of interest to the sector, 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.

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

To contribute to the next edition or to provide feedback about articles in this edition, please email frse-news@dss.gov.au.


Sonia Cornelly
A/g Branch Manager
Family Relationship Services Branch

Disclaimer: 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.

Hot Issues

Upcoming changes to Family Relationship Services

From 1 July 2009, some changes will be made to the respective responsibilities of the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) in relation to Family Relationship Services (FRS).

Contract management and administration of the FRS will be consolidated and streamlined within FaHCSIA.  FaHCSIA will manage the face to face services, family relationships online and telephone service contracts for the FRS.  AGD will retain policy responsibility for family law services (post separation services and family relationship centres) and the wider family law system.

The FRS services will sit as part of the new Family Support Program which draws together family and parenting services for all families, whether intact, separating or separated.  Services for separated parents will still be identified as a distinct Family Law Services stream under the new Program.

Service providers will benefit through streamlined contract management, reporting processes and consolidation of these processes within the one department. 

Clients of FRS will benefit through a more integrated service structure that draws together the early intervention services and post separation services within the wider Family Support Program.

As a part of these changes, some staff from Attorney-General’s Department will be transferring to FaHCSIA.  The staff remaining in AGD will be focusing on the Attorney-General’s policy responsibilities and his priorities.  The Departments are very positive about the advantages of streamlining the administration of Family Relationship Services and being able to offer increased flexibility for service providers through a reduction of red tape in the new funding agreements.

FaHCSIA would like to take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to all staff transferring from the Attorney-General’s Department.  We look forward to working with them and making their transition as comfortable as possible.

Sector News

Consortia Management Training

The Family Relationship Services (FRS) Branch of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) offered the opportunity for FRS providers to attend a one day Consortia Management training workshop in Melbourne or Sydney in June 2009.

Twenty-three participants attended in Melbourne and 40 attended in Sydney including representatives from the department and the sector.

The training was developed and presented by the University of Canberra’s National Institute of Governance.

The training aimed to provide information to those involved or interested in consortia regarding the legal implications of arrangements between partner organisations. It also aimed to look at best practice in consortia management practice. 

Much of the participants’ feedback provided to the Department has been positive with many considering the training a worthwhile event. The training gave an opportunity for participants to discuss and evaluate their legal arrangements with partner organisations and share their approaches to consortia management with other FRS providers.

For those who would like an electronic copy of the materials that were provided to the Consortia Management training participants please contact Rowena Waterford via e-mail at Rowena.waterford@dss.gov.au.

Summary Report
Family Relationship Services for Humanitarian Entrants (FRSHE) Forum
18 May 2009 - Melbourne

The theme for the 2009 FRSHE Forum was Migrant and refugee services: 'Change agents' for the future.  The Forum was intended to:

  • facilitate networks and build better linkages between FRSHE and other specialist migrant/refugee service providers, as well as share learnings and best practice service delivery models;
  • explore ways that the FRSHE and other specialist migrant/refugee services can better share their expertise and partner with mainstream providers and encourage them to do so; and
  • allow FaHCSIA to gain intelligence and better understanding of the needs and challenges of service providers in the development of future directions for the FRSHE initiative.

With over 100 Family Relationship Service (FRS) organisations throughout Australia being funded over $206 million in 2008-09 to provide high quality, accessible and professional family services under the ongoing new Family Support Program, the Department wanted to explore ways of disseminating FRSHE service delivery models to the wider sector allowing all FRS service providers to better deliver services to their CALD communities.

Six FRESHE organisations and 14 other providers delivering services to CALD communities attended the forum.  The latter deliver:

  • Newly Arrived Youth Settlement Services (NAYSS) – also funded by FaHCSIA
  • Migrant Resource Centres (MRCs)
  • Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy (IHSS) services - funded by Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), and
  • Services under the Forum of Australian Services for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (FASSTT)

The forum enabled participants to network and discuss their different service delivery approaches. Key success factors, service delivery challenges and possible responses were also identified and discussed. 

Key success factors included:

  • A solid understanding and knowledge of clients’ cultural background, values and previous way of life.  To successfully engage clients in adopting Australian practices in areas such as parenting, disciplinary approaches and family relationships, it was important to understand the clients’ cultural attitudes and past practices.  For some cultures the practice of counselling itself is a foreign concept and often other terms are used in order for these clients to feel comfortable with the services provided.
  • Recruiting workers with cross cultural competency.  Workers with good communication skills, interest and a range of experience enable clients to build trust, effectively engage and express their needs.  Encouraging established Humanitarian Entrants and those with migrant backgrounds into this field of work is also beneficial.
  • Stakeholder engagement and management. Engaging with other local key organisations such as multicultural centres, housing, immigration and policing services facilitates referrals and helps ensure the availability of resources.  This linked up approach facilitates shared learning and supports partnerships (eg to deliver relationship education).
  • Community development and capacity building activities. Providers felt that offering a range of initiatives such as various support groups is important when attempting to engage different CALD communities and building trust.

Key challenges in delivering programs to migrants and Humanitarian Entrants include:

  • Clients’ cultural values. Contrasting and conflicting cultural values with Australian values require clients to gain immediate knowledge of a whole new way of life in Australia.  For example, child disciplinary approaches, status of women and the change in gender role for both males and females.  In some migrant communities the role of men is very prominent and requires services to approach and work with these men first in order to get them on side before being able to work with the whole family.  Without prior exposure to Australian culture and law, clients’ traditional values can bring many other unforseen problems such as child protection issues.  Involvement of child protection authorities can instil fear in having their children taken away. The fear of government involvement altogether may make it difficult for providers to engage with their CALD clients.  Cultural values, such as the composition of a family, may also be problematic by preventing clients from accessing other government programs because they are not considered to be a ‘family’ for qualification purposes.  Also, engaging humanitarian clients in a western model of family therapy requires more intensive work.
  • Building the bridge between specialist and mainstream organisations.
    • Integrating refugee needs into mainstream programs.  Mainstream organisations have the potential to provide migrants and Humanitarian Entrants with a wide range of programs that can address their needs but often mainstream organisations do not see CALD clients as a priority.  Conversely, specialist services are at times reluctant to refer their clients to mainstream organisations either because of their lack of knowledge of the services they offer or they feel their clients will not feel comfortable being served by a mainstream organisation.
    • Capacity building by mainstream services so that they can service their own CALD communities and, in doing so, multiply the availability of services to CALD people across the country.  The transitioning of CALD clients to mainstream organisations will enable clients to access a full range of services that current specialist service providers may never have the long term capacity to provide.  There is a high degree of complexity with migrant issues because they may be dealing with personal trauma from their home countries.  Certain immediate needs must be addressed first, such as housing, before clients can engage in counselling related to building better family relationships.  Enhanced capacity building requires planning that identifies how this will be done and by whom. By partnering with mainstream organisations, migrant specialist services are able to share their expertise and encourage them to deliver services to migrants.
  • Data collection. There is a high number of ‘unregistered’ clients recorded for FRSHE services.  This is due to both a fear of disclosure of personal information by clients and also service providers finding that it is time consuming obtaining information and consent from clients.  There is a need for better data collection to ensure that:
    1. quality assurance mechanisms such as client feedback is available;
    2. adequate statistical information on a client group is obtained for program design and review; and
    3. Service delivery requirements are being met such as providing one-on-one counselling as opposed to group activities.  Achievement of value for money and the development of appropriate costing models require a robust data set.
  • Alignment of different government policy and programs. Intergenerational conflict is a major issue affecting newly arrived migrants to Australia, largely brought on by the challenges of parenting in a new culture.  The NAYSS program seeks to support the rights of migrant youth who can elect not to inform their parents of their activities within NAYSS, while the FRSHE program seeks to support parents.  It may be a challenge for counsellors to balance the rights and needs of young people with the rights and needs of adult parents/carers in the family.  Other policy areas can be influenced by DIAC and FaHCSIA such as housing, medicare, child protection and family assistance to ensure that clients’ immediate needs are addressed and that they have immediate access to universal and early intervention support.
  • Role of counsellors. At times counsellors are required to juggle between their professional role and their personal connection to their community which can put some pressure on them personally. Also counsellors are required to achieve a balance between the client’s expectations and what can be achieved. Workers may have limited skills in counselling and group work.
  • Interpreters. This was identified as a key challenge primarily due to access issues including sourcing qualified interpreters and those with particular languages and their availability. Standard of service is seen as an issue, because of accuracy of interpretation, and the need for professional training.
  • Barriers to participation of programs and services due to the movement of Humanitarian Entrants to metropolitan areas (due to housing costs) resulting in home visiting being expensive and time consuming and clients’ ineligibility to mainstream programs (leading to difficulty with referring migrants to these mainstream services).

Key solutions put forward to address the challenges included:

  • Delivering a community education/awareness program to migrants and Humanitarian Entrants.  While sufficient information is provided to newly arrived migrants from DIAC around settlement issues like housing, employment, education etc., there is a gap in information around parenting and the law, particularly disciplining children.  A community education/awareness program could be developed jointly by FaHCSIA and DIAC.  Providing this information to newly arrived entrants as soon as they arrive may assist as a preventative approach before problems arise.  Such information would also serve to assist migrants to transition well in their new country and adopt Australian values and laws. This could be done through an introductory session with a counsellor to review their background and current circumstances, and discuss the differences living in Australia and their concerns.  This introductory session can be supported with the provision of an information pack. 
  • Enhancing accessibility to services. The provision of after hours counselling, supervised child care, transport and counselling sessions at organisations regularly visited by migrants, such as MRCs, can assist in providing better client access to services.
  • Setting up Advisory Committees comprising of key community leaders helps sustain community development projects and build bridges with mainstream organisations.
  • Enhancing interpreter services by providing professional training for interpreters, testing out their service, sourcing interpreters from previous clients now well established in Australia, developing QA processes and vetting procedures, as well as addressing their support requirements.  An example of improving interpreter services is to change the seating arrangement by placing the interpreter behind the client to increase the engagement between the client and counsellor.
  • Tailoring of community development projects.  Projects that address cultural sensitivities such as matching a male authoritarian client with male worker and embracing the migrant community by celebrating traditional days and providing culturally appropriate food, and taking into account religious days will assist in making migrants feel comfortable about undertaking programs. Also, paying attention to particular things such as the title of programs to ensure they don’t emphasise deficiencies and are culturally more acceptable, and implementing community ideas can assist in generating interest and participation in these programs.

FRSHE Forum Evaluation Form Feedback

Seventy one percent of respondents in their feedback forms indicated that the forum was useful and valuable.  All respondents indicated that they made new contacts at the forum.  The majority of attendees indicated that they gained a better understanding of other migrant programs and the services they provide.  The feedback forms also revealed that it provided for more referral points and linkages as well as issues and ideas that can be explored in their own projects.  Suggestions for future forums included the need to focus on therapeutic approaches, mainstream service involvement, a greater focus on the differences between migrant programs and how to integrate other services (eg child protection, family violence, mental health, law etc).

Changes to Child Support legislation that may affect customers

Child Support Agency customers may be affected by upcoming changes to legislation that will affect same sex couples and expand the definition of income for all Australians.

In November 2008, the Australian Government passed wide-ranging reforms to remove discrimination against same-sex couples.

From 1 July 2009, separated parents with children from a same-sex relationship who meet the legislative requirements, may be eligible to receive child support from the other parent.

The Australian Government is also introducing changes to the definition of income from 1 July 2009.

This means that customer’s adjusted taxable income will now include Reportable Superannuation Contributions and Total Net Investment Losses before the customer’s Child Support Income is worked out.

If a customer’s child support assessment is based on their taxable income, these changes won’t affect their child support assessment until 1 July 2010.

For more information about any of these changes go to the CSA website at www.csa.gov.au or call 131 272.

Resource Updates

Child Support Stakeholder News…working together to support separated families

CSA produces a monthly e-newsletter – Child Support Stakeholder News…working together to support separated families.  With 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 also subscribe to receive your monthly copy of Child Support Stakeholder News…working together to support separated families and updates about this site.


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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 10 July 2009. Edition 27 of the FRSP e-News will be emailed on 3 August 2009.

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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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