Edition 4 - 9 May 2007

Welcome

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

This e-newsletter is fast becoming a central contact point for the sector to share stories with other industry stakeholders.  Since the newsletter was first introduced in February 2007, it has attracted 55 new readers, increasing subscriptions by 22 per cent. 

Feedback from the sector also continues to be positive.  Feedback from the sector continues to be positive.  Recent feedback from the Lifeline Community Care Queensland described FRSP Sector e-News as:

“… a valuable resource that provides an ‘easily read quick update’ format with the opportunity to expand on the information if required . The layout is simple layout and ‘easy-to–find’ references to other important sites and access to email contact for the site itself.”

However, some feedback has found that while the e-newsletter is sent to all FRSP service providers, not all family relationship service practitioners are receiving the e-newsletter. 
To ensure everyone has the opportunity to be kept informed of program developments that affect their practice and business operations, I encourage you to circulate this e-newsletter to your colleagues.

Just a reminder, this e-newsletter is an ideal opportunity for you to reach up to 305 FRSP service providers and industry stakeholders to share service delivery news or to raise any issues you consider the sector should be aware of. 

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

Regards

Robyn Fleming
Branch Manager
Family Relationship Services Branch

Hot topics

Free media and marketing resources available

Two exciting new resources for community organisations were recently launched by
Media Team Australia, a non-profit organisation that helps community organisations develop their media and marketing skills.

Through a grant from the Prime Minister's Business and Community Partnership they have developed a series of online tools to assist community organisations professionalise their media and marketing activities.

The tools are available free online from www.mediateam.com.au

The second resource is a media guide book for community organisations.

‘Media on a Shoestring’ is a practical, insider’s guide to the media written specifically for community organisations. It is available for $45 from Media Team Australia.

For more information, please email frspe-news@dss.gov.au.

Seven Family Mental Health Support Services established across Australia

The Family Relationship Services Branch of the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has worked in partnership with Mental Health Branch to establish seven demonstration sites for Family Mental Health Support Services (FMHSS) across Australia.

Mental Health Branch is retaining overall program responsibility.  The FRSP State and Territory Office network will support Mental Health Branch by managing FMHSS. 

It is anticipated that announcements of the successful providers for FMHSS will be made in May 2007.

Further details will be provided in next month’s FRSP Sector e-News. 

FRSP News

Family Relationship Services Australia

The Inaugural Board of Family Relationship Services Australia (FRSA) recently circulated a consultation paper to the FRSP sector. The Consultation Paper invited feedback on a proposed membership and governance structure as well as a range of specific issues such as the process for determining the Chairperson of the organisation and proposed membership fees. 

A total of 28 responses were received and a report has been considered by the Inaugural Board.  In summary, the feedback indicated:

  • Support for the membership structure proposed (93%);
  • Support for the governance structure proposed (64%);
  • Preference for the Chairperson to be elected by the Board rather than the membership (61%);
  • Satisfaction with the proposed membership fee structure (82%); and
  • A relatively strong intention to join the new organisation (89%).

The Inaugural Board is now seeking advice on the need for any constitutional changes to implement the proposals outlined the consultation paper.  It is important to note that due consideration was given to concerns raised in feedback responses, particularly in relation to the allocation of one vote per organisation, the process for approving membership applications and mechanisms to ensure that the new organisation is representative.  However, it was resolved that the Board will process with the structure proposed for the purpose of establishing the new body. Once a membership and elected Board are in place, all aspects of the structure and function or the new body can be reviewed.  

FRSA has finalised and signed an interim Funding Agreement with the Department for the establishment funds to 30 June 2007. 

For more information or to provide additional feedback please contact admin@frsa.org.au or fax 02 6281 1794.

Keys to Living Together DVD and booklet update

The Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs continues to develop a suite of new Family Relationship Education and Skills Training resources that aim to strengthen families by focusing on key relationship issues.

The Keys to Living Together resource series consists of a DVD and mini magazine, and is intended for a broad audience at a variety of life stages.  The first three resources in the series will be aimed at pre-married/committed couples, couples with a young child, and step and blended families.

The Keys to Living Together resource is in the final stages of production and is on track to be released in May 2007.

Timing of next selection process for family relationship services

Details of the next selection process for organisations seeking funding for family relationship services were recently announced by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough.

On 4 August, the process for the next 25 Family Relationship Centres, 14 Children’s Contact Services and 22 Early Intervention Services under the Family Relationship Services Program will commence.  The open competitive selection process will be jointly conducted by the Attorney-General’s Department and Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

The closing date for applications will be announced as part of the Request for Applications for Funding but it is expected that the length of time to lodge applications will be similar to last year's process (about 2 months).  

The outcome of the selection process will be announced by early 2008 and the new Family Relationship Centres and services will open in July 2008.  This will build on the achievements of the first 40 Centres, 15 of which opened in July 2006, with the next 25 due to open in July 2007.

The Government is delighted with how well the Family Relationship Centres have been received by the community. The Family Relationship Centres are being used as a first point of contact by people wanting information, advice and assistance with strengthening family relationships, preventing separation or resolving relationship difficulties after separation.

In addition, Children’s Contact Services help children and parents in high conflict families maintain relationships after separation and divorce.

The Early Intervention Services deliver relationship counselling, education and skills training, and men and family relationship services, to improve communication and family relationships by providing all family members with the relationship skills to manage change and develop problem-solving skills to prevent family breakdown and sustain relationships.

The 2007-08 selection process will consider applications for funding for services in the following locations:

Family Relationship Centres

  • New South Wales: Sydney city, Bankstown, Brookvale, Parramatta, Bathurst, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Gosford, Tamworth, Taree.
  • Victoria: Broadmeadows, Chadstone, Melbourne city, Shepparton, Warrnambool.
  • Queensland: Bundaberg, Chermside, Logan, Mackay, Toowoomba.
  • Western Australia: Bunbury, Perth city, Pilbara/Kimberley.
  • South Australia: Adelaide, Mount Gambier.

Early Intervention Services

A mix of Men and Family Relationship Counselling, Family Relationship Education and Skills Training, and Family Relationship Counselling in each of the locations listed below:

  • New South Wales: Bankstown, Bathurst, Brookvale, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Gosford, Parramatta, Sydney City, Tamworth, Taree.
  • Victoria: Broadmeadows, Chadstone, Melbourne City*, Shepparton, Warrnambool.
  • Queensland: Bundaberg, North Brisbane, Mackay, Toowoomba*.  
  • Western Australia: Bunbury, Perth City.
  • South Australia: Adelaide.

* Funding available for Family Relationship Education and Skills Training and Family Relationship Counselling only.

Children’s Contact Services

  • New South Wales: Inner Sydney, Tamworth, Wyong, Port Macquarie.
  • Victoria: Inner Melbourne, Cranbourne, Shepparton, Warrnambool.
  • Queensland: Caboolture, Hervey Bay.
  • Western Australia: Armadale, Albany, Kalgoorlie.
  • South Australia: Burnside.

Information sessions: changes to the law affecting separating families and family dispute resolution practitioners

The Attorney-General's Department is conducting a series of information sessions about changes to the law affecting separating families and family dispute resolution practitioners.

The sessions are tailored for family dispute resolution practitioners, family lawyers and others working in the family law system. 

If you are interested in attending, please go to www.ag.gov.au/fdrproviders for session times, locations and information on how to book.

Where applicable, please circulate the notice below to your members, colleagues and other interested parties.

Changes to the law affecting separating families and family dispute resolution practitioners

Changes to the Family Law Act 1975, which are being phased in from 1 July, will mean that a court will not be able to hear an application for a parenting order unless the parties file a certificate from a registered family dispute resolution provider. There are some exceptions to this requirement.

All family dispute resolution practitioners (except those authorised by the courts) are required to be included on the Family Dispute Resolution Register in order to issue valid certificates. Accreditation rules for family dispute resolution practitioners are also being introduced.

Information sessions for family dispute resolution practitioners, family lawyers and others working in the family law system about the new requirements will be held in all major capital cities and some regional locations across Australia during May.

For further details on information sessions dates and locations, how to book and information about the changes to the law, go to www.ag.gov.au/fdrproviders

Second Biennial Family Relationship Services Program (FRSP) Forum: Building an Innovative and Integrated Service System

The Second Biennial Family Relationship Services Program (FRSP) Forum: Building an Innovative and Integrated Service System will be held on 1 and 2 August at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

A joint venture of the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA) and the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD), the Forum will attract nearly 500 delegates including Chief Executive Officers, managers, team leaders and practitioners from across the FRSP.  The forum is an opportunity to network, showcase innovative and integrated practice and discuss new and emerging issues for the FRSP.  

Suggestions for topics and expressions of interest from service providers who would like to present at the conference are being sought.  Service providers should submit a short (200 word) abstract on their presentation by 28 May so the conference organisers have time to assess the proposals and notify the presenters of their role in the forum.  

Please send any ideas or expressions of interest to:

Kimberley Hare
Email: kimberley.hare@dss.gov.au
Phone: (02) 6212 9135
Family Relationship Services Branch
The Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

FRSP Online update

The FRSP Online Support Centre has been undergoing some recruitment over the past two months, and has been able to attract a number of experienced Support Centre staff.  The Support Centre will be going through a series of training courses over the month of May to enable the new members to offer the highest level of support services possible to all FRSP Online users.

An update to FRSP Online (Release 1.5) was implemented on 26 April 2007, which resolved a number of issues, caused by the previous release implemented on 5 April 2007.

Information Integrity Solutions has commenced a Privacy Impact Assessment of FRSP Online.  This assessment will review all system functionality released during phase one of FRSP Online to ensure its compliance with the Information Privacy Principals under the Privacy Act.

Training for FRSP Online has now been completed in each State, with more than 400 users attending training.  For those organisations that were unable to attend, telephone training was organised.  Should any organisation have any concern or have an additional need for training, they should contact the FRSP Online Support Centre on 1300 137 305 or send an email to frsponline@dss.gov.au

To obtain a copy of the FRSP Online training manual, please visit the FRSP Online website on frsponline.dss.gov.au and select the download link.

Building Connections Pilot Project

A pilot project called Building Connections, run by Interrelate Family Centres, has recently been evaluated.  The Building Connections pilot was based on the successful Staying Connected program for separated fathers in the workplace that Interrelate developed in partnership with the Child Support Agency. 

The Building Connections pilot was conducted in Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo and Orange last year with parents from Interrelate’s Children’s Contact Services.  This client group is typically characterised by extremely high conflict and a long involvement with the family law courts.

The aim of the pilot was to assist highly conflicted separated parents to develop insights into child focused parenting.  This was done by means of a short interactive workshop of up to four hours duration that was designed to evoke a strong emotional reaction.  It helped separated parents understand the effect that entrenched conflict has on their children and to develop strategies to deal more constructively with the other parent.

The evaluation report of the pilot found that this short, hard-hitting seminar had a very positive effect on the participants, even where only one parent attended.  Prior to the workshop no parents demonstrated beliefs that were 100 per cent consistent with being focused on the best interests of their child and taking personal responsibility for their current family circumstances of entrenched conflict.  The evaluation found that 63 per cent of participants increased their beliefs about child focused parenting.

In addition, the Children’s Contact Service managers who worked with the Building Connections participants observed that 57 per cent of participants improved the way their behaviour focused on their children’s needs.  This included an increase in encouraging the children’s relationship with the other parent, more focus on the child’s needs, and positive changes in levels of respect towards the other parent.

The evaluation report and pilot material will be made available by the Attorney-General’s Department.

Family Law Reforms Evaluation Framework update

The Attorney-General recently approved the framework developed for the Australian Government by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) for the evaluation of the family law reform package and associated longitudinal research.

The Institute will use pre-existing program and survey data alongside newly collected baseline data to conduct an evaluation of aspects of the family law reform package both individually and in concert.

The framework has been made publicly available on the Attorney-General’s Department website or through Family Relationships Online www.familyrelationships.gov.au.

Amendments to Regulations - compulsory family dispute resolution and accreditation

On 12 April, amendments were made to the Family Law Regulations 1984 (the Regulations) in relation to the introduction of compulsory dispute resolution and the accreditation of family dispute resolution practitioners.

The amendments to the Regulations:

  • provide detail on how the requirement for attendance at family dispute resolution under section 60I of the Family Law Act 1975 (the Act) will work in practice;
  • establish the Family Dispute Resolution Register; and
  • introduce interim Accreditation Rules for family dispute resolution practitioners.

Requirement to attend family dispute resolution

From 1 July, courts will not be able to hear an application for a parenting order in a new case (that is, a case where there has not been a previous application to the court) unless the person seeking the order first obtains a certificate from a family dispute resolution practitioner.  It is expected that this requirement will apply to all applications for parenting orders from 1 July 2008.  There are some exceptions to ensure that people are not required to attend family dispute resolution in circumstances where it may not be appropriate, such as in cases of family violence or child abuse.

The amendments to the Regulations set out a number of matters relating to compulsory family dispute resolution, including:

  • the form of certificates issued by family dispute resolution practitioners under section 60I of the Act;  
  • timeframes for family dispute resolution practitioners to issue certificates and for applicants to file certificates with the court; and
  • the steps that must be taken before a practitioner may issue a certificate that provides that a person did not attend family dispute resolution.

Family Dispute Resolution Register

The amendments to the Regulations establish the Family Dispute Resolution Register (the Register), which will contain details of all family dispute resolution practitioners, approved family dispute resolution organisations and designated organisations.

Family dispute resolution practitioners must be included on the Register in order to issue valid certificates under section 60I of the Act.

Interim Accreditation Rules

The amendments to the Regulations also introduce interim Accreditation Rules for family dispute resolution practitioners.  

Interim arrangements are in place to ensure that suitably qualified and experienced individuals are able to provide family dispute resolution and issue family dispute resolution certificates during the period leading up to the implementation of the final Accreditation Rules on 1 July 2009.

Further information

To help people working in the family law system implement the new requirements, information sessions will be held in all major capital cities and some regional locations across Australia in May.

Further details about the changes and the dates and locations of information sessions are available at www.ag.gov.au/fdrproviders.

Sector Updates

Addressing drought issues: A chin wag in Jundah

By Nicole Steel of Relationships Australia Queensland

Several factors characterise remote counselling - most obviously distance.  But after driving nearly four hours from my home in Longreach to meet a group of local women on a property 45kms north-west of Jundah, I soon realised there are other significant challenges.

On arrival in this dry, dusty country, I was quickly reminded of the many hardships first hand.  There is no mains water or electricity - just bore water and locally generated electricity (stories abound of coping when the generator stops).  Although there have been huge improvements to urban telecommunication networks, in remote areas families struggle for access to a grid. 

In the outback, leaving the house for some ’alone time’ or coffee with a girlfriend is not an option.  Many of these women have no mobile phone or internet access.  They share stories of people who have committed suicide and how many families leave the area, rather than cope with the extraordinary strain. 

I also saw another side – a group of wonderful women bound together by their experiences.  They were passionate about their rural lifestyles and were coping with the drought situation as best they could.  They are amazing people with great stories to tell.  

I tried to leave behind something that would lessen their feelings of isolation.  Even if it was only a sense that Relationships Australia Queensland, which provides a range of rural and remote services, would try and support them during these trying times. 

Child Support Agency Community Information Sessions

The Child Support Agency (CSA) regularly conducts community information sessions for parents around Australia.

These sessions provide information about the Child Support Scheme and help parents examine their options and make choices to support the financial and social wellbeing of their children.

CSA invites a range of other support services to attend including legal, financial and parenting groups, as well as other Department of Human Services agencies like Medicare and Centrelink.

Information sessions give parents the opportunity to ask questions and discuss child support and other related issues with experienced staff from CSA and other organisations.

Parents are also provided with information about the new Child Support Scheme changes which begin on 1 July 2008.

These sessions are free and everyone is welcome to attend. Separated parents can visit the CSA website www.csa.gov.au or call 131 272 for more information on their nearest Community Information Session.

Service providers interested in being involved in Community Information Sessions in their area should contact Samantha on 02 6272 8380 for further details.

May Community Information Sessions:

VIC

  • 14th Lakes Entrance
  • 17th Narre Warren
  • 21st Ferntree Gully

NSW

  • 17th Wagga Wagga

FRSP Regional, Rural and Remote (RRR) Working Group

The special needs of providers working in Regional, Rural and Remote (RRR) Australia is something that FaCSIA is keenly aware of.  The need to establish a FRSP Regional, Rural and Remote (RRR) Working Group was identified as a priority by the sector through several consultative processes, including the FRSP Review and the regional and national forums. In recognition of this, the Family Relationship Services Branch of FaCSIA established a Working Group in mid-2006.

Members of the Working Group were selected from nominations received through FRSP Industry Representative Bodies and expressions of interest from other individuals working in the sector.  The Working group currently has four members from FaCSIA, two members from the Attorney-General’s Department and six members from the Family Relationship sector:  Neil Hamilton (Centrecare, WA); Ann Mills (Agencies for South West Accommodation); Tony Vidot (Anglicare, NT); Tricia Munn (University of South Australia, Whyalla); Margaret Flynn (Centacare Wilcannia/Forbes); and, Mary Pekin (Relationships Australia, ACT), Paul Jensen (Lifeline, Darling Downs) and Barry Sheehan (Centrecare, Townsville).

The terms of reference of the Working Group stipulate that it is neither a decision-making nor advisory body.  It is intended that the Working Group will contribute to and provide feedback on the development and implementation of strategies for the FRSP that will improve service responses to people living in regional, rural and remote areas.

The Working Group has had several teleconferences and two face-to-face meetings in Adelaide on both occasions.  In August 2006, the Working Group developed an Operational Plan which they worked on out of session.  In the March 2007 meeting, work on the Operational Plan was refined.  Apart from the formal work, all the meetings have provided valuable opportunities for information exchange downwards on issues from FaCSIA and AGD (e.g. contract variations; family law reform) and upwards from the providers (e.g. impact of the mining boom and the drought on RRR Australia). 

Much of the Working Group’s Operational Plan will feed directly into the FRSP Conference to be held in Melbourne 1-2 August 2007. 

Over the next few months members of the Working Group will be contributing articles to FRSP Sector e-news.

Personal Safety Survey results

The Personal Safety Survey 2005 sampled approximately 12,700 women and 5,000 men across Australia, and reported on the frequency, severity and consequences of a number of different types of violence.  

The survey reported on the relationship of the perpetrator to the victim and provides information on those who are most at risk.

The findings have been compared to the 1996 Women’s Safety Survey, and for the first time in Australia, provide a comparison over time of women’s experiences of violence and detail on men’s experiences of violence.

Some of the key findings show:

  • In the 12-months prior to the survey, 443,800 (or 5.8 per cent) of women experienced violence.  For men the figure is 808,300 (or 10.8 per cent).  But the experience of violence for women and men is very different.
  • The majority of violence against women is committed by men they know. Of those women who experienced physical assault since the age of 15, 50.7 per cent said the perpetrator was a current or previous male partner, 32.6 per cent said the perpetrator was a male family member or friend.  
  • The majority of violence against women is committed in the home (64.1 per cent).
  • Men who reported that they experienced physical violence since 15 years of age 70.5 per cent said that the perpetrator was a male stranger, 26.8 per cent said the perpetrator was another known male.  The majority of incidences occurred in an open space or licensed premises.
  • The proportion of women who reported physical and/or sexual assault to police has increased from 19 per cent to 36 per cent for physical violence and from 15 per cent to 18.9 per cent for sexual violence.

Other topics of interest

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Through 12 Knowledge Centres, Our Communities provide the one-stop-gateway for practical resources, support and linkages between community networks and the general public, business and government - building capacity to strengthen the community in every Australian State and Territory.  

Subscription

If you do not wish to receive the newsletter, 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 also like to subscribe to FRSP, have them email: frspe-news@dss.gov.au and include the subject header Subscribe to FRSP Sector e-News.

Feedback

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, please send 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 18 May 2007. The next edition of FRSP Sector e-News will be released on 11 June 2007.

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, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA) in collaboration with the Attorney-General’s Department.

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

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