Edition 6 - 9 July 2007


Welcome to the sixth edition of the Family Relationship Services Program (FRSP) Sector

We have some interesting topics for you to read this month, such as:

These are just a few of the topics discussed in this months edition to open communication across the sector.   

If you are a new subscriber to FRSP Sector e-News, this publication is an ideal opportunity for you to reach 337 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 the next edition or to provide feedback about articles in this edition, please email frspe-news@facsia.gov.au.


Robyn Fleming
Branch Manager
Family Relationship Services Branch

Hot topics

Re-ordering Family Relationship Services brochures

Family Relationship Services brochures produced by the Attorney-General's Department are proving highly successful in the marketplace.

The brochures provide information about:

  • Family Relationship Centres
  • Family Relationship Advice Line
  • Family Relationships Online
  • Parenting after separation
  • Children's Contact Services
  • Family Counselling
  • Family Dispute Resolution and Compulsory Dispute Resolution.

To order these brochures, please telephone 1800 114 393.

Evaluation of the New Family Law System

In implementing the New Family Law System the Australian Government gave a commitment to evaluate the reforms.  The evaluation has now commenced and will run until late 2009.  The Attorney-General’s Department has engaged the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) to undertake the evaluation.

The evaluation will allow the Government and service providers to gain a greater understanding of whether clients of FRSP funded services are experiencing better outcomes and will identify the strengths of the reforms, as well as challenges or areas requiring further improvement. 

The evaluation will involve several key activities, including:

  • interviews and surveys of selected FRSP service managers, staff, clients, and law practitioners
  • longitudinal research to figure out the trends and long term effects of the reforms
  • a repeat of the 2006 General Population of Parents Survey.

AIFS will provide more detail to organisations it selects to take part in the evaluation.  Should you require more information, Kelly Hand from AIFS (Kelly.hand@aifs.gov.au) will be happy to talk to you further, or you can view the AIFS website.

Funding for Post Separation Cooperative Parenting services

Post Separation Cooperative Parenting is the name of a new Service Type to help separated families in regional Australia.  Funding for this new educational program was announced by the Australian Government in the 2007-08 Budget.

These new services will assist separated parents who are experiencing high conflict that is affecting contact between parents and children.  It will help separated parents to focus on the needs of their children by providing an education activity, counselling, information and referral, and support.  The education activity, a half-day workshop, was piloted by Interrelate as Building Connections in regional NSW in 2005-06. 

The selection process for the first 14 new Post Separation Cooperative Parenting services will commence on 4 August 2007.  This will be part of the same selection process announced by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough for new family relationship services.  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 outcome of the selection process will be announced in early 2008 along with the next 25 Family Relationship Centres, 14 Children's Contact Services and 22 Early Intervention Services under the Family Relationship Services Program.  Unlike these services, the first 14 Post Separation Cooperative Parenting services will commence service delivery from October 2008

The 2007-08 selection process will consider applications for funding for 14 Post Separation Cooperative Parenting services in the following locations:

  • New South Wales: Bathurst-Orange, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Port Macquarie, Tamworth, Wyong
  • Victoria: Shepparton, Warrnambool
  • Queensland: Caboolture, Hervey Bay, Toowoomba
  • Western Australia: Albany, Kalgoorlie
  • South Australia:Mount Gambier.

A 2008-09 selection process will consider applications for funding for 14 more Post Separation Co-operative Parenting services in the following locations:

  • New South Wales: Bega, Nowra, Wagga Wagga
  • Victoria: Ballarat, Bendigo, Mildura, Morwell
  • Queensland: Ipswich, MacKay
  • Western Australia: Geraldton
  • South Australia: Berri, Port Augusta
  • Tasmania: Devonport
  • Northern Territory: Alice Springs.

FRSP conference update

The Family Relationship Services Program (FRSP) Conference ’Building an Innovative and Integrated Service Delivery System‘ is being held on 1-2 August 2007 at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre.  The conference will provide a fantastic opportunity for service providers to network and find innovative solutions to shared challenges.


Invitations to register for the conference were sent out on Friday 8 June and applications closed on 29 June.  If you have missed this deadline and still wish to attend, please contact the conference coordinators by no later than this Wednesday 11 July to confirm your attendance. 

Conference program

The conference is fast approaching and the organising committee is working hard to create a conference program that give delegates the opportunity to celebrate, innovate, integrate and inform.  The conference will feature energetic Julie McCrossin as Master of Ceremonies, interactive workshops and keynote presentations by Dr Norman Swan and Dr Rhonda Galbally AO.

Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander delegates networking opportunity

Many of the conference workshops and plenary sessions are relevant and useful for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander service providers and the challenges they face in service delivery.  An Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander network meeting is scheduled on 31 July 2007.

Exhibition space

Exhibition space is available at the conference free of charge. Organisations are invited to present a display of products and examples of innovative service delivery.

Conference contacts

If you are a service provider and your organisation has not received an invitation, contact Leonie Aldcroft at leonie.aldcroft@facsia.gov.au or on 02 6212 9414 or Kimberley Hare at kimberley.hare@facsia.gov.au or on 02 6212 9135. 

Call for service providers to participate in a study on relationship breakdown

By the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention

The Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University is undertaking a study, which aims to investigate the impact of relationship breakdown.  In particular, the study aims to gain an understanding of the moments in the separation process that are associated with increased distress and/or the development  of suicidal thoughts, gestures and behaviours.

To assist in recruiting participants for the study, the Institute is seeking agencies to collaborate with them on the project.  This project already has support from Lifeline Brisbane, Lifeline Caboolture, Mensline Australia, Men's Information and Support Association, Kinections, Centacare and Dads in Distress.

These agencies have been able to participate in a number of ways, including:

  • taking names and addresses of people who would like to participate in the study and forwarding them to the institute
  • telephone counsellors giving the institutes phone number to participants
  • giving out details of the study in face to face sessions
  • handing out the questionnaires in counselling sessions
  • distributing emails asking clients to participate.

The Institute is happy to discuss other options with organisations to suit their form of service delivery. If you would like to help, contact Dr Marianne Wyder on 07 3735 3380.


Family Relationship Services Australia

Family Relationship Services Australia (FRSA) has invited all organisations funded under the Family Relationship Services Program (FRSP) to take up Full Membership and participate in the election of a new Board of Directors.  The response has been a resounding success with 95 of 105 eligible organisations (90 per cent) joining to date.  New applications are still being received and can be accepted at any time.   Another nine organisations with an interest in the FRSP have joined as Associate Members and it is anticipated this number will build over time.

As foreshadowed, the Inaugural Board of FRSA has called an election to appoint a new Board of Directors.  The election is being managed by the returning officer in accordance with the following timetable:

  1. opening of nominations: Wednesday, 13 June
  2. close of nominations and close of roll: Wednesday, 4 July
  3. ballot papers to be issued: Friday, 6 July
  4. return of ballot papers (into locked box) due: Friday, 27 July
  5. results announced at Annual General Meeting (AGM): 1 August

The AGM Notices will be circulated shortly.  The 1 August date has been selected to coincide with the FRSP National Conference in Melbourne, 1-2 August.

The establishment of the FRSA secretariat is progressing.  The Minister for FaCSIA, the Hon Mal Brough MP, has approved funding for FRSA for the next two years (2007-08 and 2008-09) and contract negotiations are now under way.

A competitive recruitment process has been conducted and as a result Samantha (Sam) Page has been appointed to the position of Executive Director.  Sam is well known in the family relationship services sector through her most recent position as Chief Executive Officer of Family Services Australia (FSA).  She has a solid track record in network facilitation, sector development, service delivery and social policy analysis demonstrated across a diversity of former roles with peak bodies, community organisations and State and Commonwealth Government Departments.  She also holds relevant qualifications including an MA (Community Organisation Management) and BA (Psychology).

FaCSIA would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of FSA as a previous representative body for the FRSP.  With the establishment of FRSA, FSA members recently voted to begin the process of voluntary liquidation, with operations ceasing on 30 June 2007. 

Since 1994, FSA has been providing input into the development of the FRSP and working to advance the interests of its members.  As a demonstration of goodwill and support for FRSA, surplus assets from FSA will be disbursed to FRSA to assist in its establishment.  FaCSIA looks forward to working with Sam in her new role as Executive Director of FRSA.

To find out about membership of FRSA and the election of new Board Directors, please contact admin@frsa.org.au. For more information, please email frspe-news@facsia.gov.au.

Family Relationships Online Improvement Project - your feedback

Through July and August 2007, the Family Pathways Branch of the Attorney-General's Department is seeking the views of stakeholders and the public about possible improvements to Family Relationships Online.

Using questionnaires and an online survey, a range of views and opinions will be gathered to ensure that Family Relationships Online provides resources and information in an accessible way. Questionnaires have been sent to Family Relationship Services Program providers.

If you would like to provide feedback you can complete a short online survey and suggest possible improvements or comments. The online survey is on the Family Relationships Online website.

Alternatively, for a copy of the full questionnaire to provide more detailed information in writing, please contact john.macdonald@ag.gov.au.  Responses are due by 27 July.

The consultation is part of a commitment by the Department to continuous improvement, and feedback received will help shape future enhancements.

Information resources on Family Relationships Online - Parenting Plans

Family Relationships Online regularly adds new and relevant content to the site.  Resources recently registered as fact sheets on Family Relationships Online include some for men, children, parents and indigenous families.

An extensive plain-English Parenting Plan Guide has now been published. This resource is valuable for service providers, clients and the public users of Family Relationships Online.

The document offers links to Parenting Plan templates on approved sites.  Currently links to a Relationships Australia template and a Child Support Agency template are listed.

We are now seeking recommendations and permission to link to other Parenting Plan templates so that users have a wider range of options available to them. Please contact sally.ruth@ag.gov.au or familyrelationshipsonline@ag.gov.au to recommend a template.

Compulsory family dispute resolution has commenced!

The phased introduction of a requirement for people seeking a parenting order to first attempt family dispute resolution commenced on 1 July 2007.  From that date, applications to the court for parenting orders in new cases (that is, cases where there has not been a previous application to the court) cannot be heard unless the person seeking the order first obtains a certificate from a registered 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 this requirement 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.

Who can issue certificates?

In order to be a family dispute resolution practitioner as defined in the family law legislation and issue family dispute resolution certificates, individuals must be registered on the Family Dispute Resolution Register.  To be eligible for registration people must meet requirements relating to qualifications, training, experience and suitability (eg absence of convictions for violent or sex-related offences). 

How does this affect organisations funded under the Family Relationship Services Program?   

Under family law legislation, a person is a ‘family dispute resolution practitioner’ if they are authorised by an approved family dispute resolution organisation.  These are organisations that are funded under the Family Relationship Services Program to provide family dispute resolution services.  They are automatically registered on the Family Dispute Resolution Register.  

Approved organisations provide the Attorney-General's Department with the names of the individuals that they have authorised to provide family dispute resolution on their behalf, and the period for which they are authorised.  These individuals also submit a registration application to allow the Department to confirm that they are suitable to provide family dispute resolution.

Where can I get more information?

Comprehensive information about the introduction of compulsory family dispute resolution and registration of family dispute resolution practitioners is available from the Australian Government Attorney-General's Department website.

Questions relating to registration should be directed to the Practitioner Registration Unit on 1800 025 255 or by email at fdrregistration@ag.gov.au  

Parenting Orders Program Forum - 21 and 22 May 2007

The second Parenting Orders Program Forum was held in Melbourne on 21 and 22 May 2007.  The forum was well attended with about 60 managers and practitioners representing all but one of the current and new services under the Parenting Orders Program.  Officers from the Family Court and Family Court of Western Australia, Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Department were also in attendance. 

With eight new services about to start from July 2007 and new changes to the family law system, the forum was a welcome event.  It provided an opportunity for the 12 current service providers and those about to establish a service under the Parenting Orders Program to undertake some professional development, share information and develop and enhance mentoring relationships between each other. 

Over the two days, sessions were held on a range of issues including establishing a new service (including obstacles and barriers to effective implementation as well as providing strategies to address these), client focus (including intake and assessment and consent protocols for working with children), compulsory dispute resolution, innovative practices, tools and models and training. 

Each service had the opportunity to give a brief overview of its current or proposed service while some services took the opportunity to showcase the great work they are doing in their services.  A representative from the Family Court of Australia, the Federal Magistrates Court and the Family Court of Western Australia also gave presentations outlining how the Parenting Orders Program can and does work with the court systems. 

The forum was interactive, service driven and child focused.  Participants were lucky enough to experience the talents of a case worker who entertained us with his wonderful guitar playing and relevant and touching songs and a visual artist and storyteller who reinforced the importance of mentoring and networking relationships in his presentation. 

The forum was co-facilitated by the coordinators of the two Melbourne based Parenting Orders Programs run by GordonCare for Children and Centacare Melbourne. 

Feedback received indicates that it was a successful event.  It is envisaged that future forums may focus on specific areas of best practice.

For more information, contact Diana Xirakis at the Family Pathways Branch on (02) 6234 4875.

Sector Updates

Marriage and Relationship Educators' National Conference (MARENC) 2007

The Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is proud to sponsor MARENC 2007, to be held 20-22 September in Fremantle, Western Australia.

MARENC has proved to be a valuable resource for marriage and relationship educators through:

  • opportunities for delegates to be updated with developments in the field  of relationship education, such as the roll-out of the Family Relationship Centres and the new qualifications framework
  • workshops, which provide practical ideas and examples of best practice
  • networking with other professionals, particularly for educators who work in isolation
  • opportunities to meet government personnel who fund relationship services.

The theme for this year’s MARENC is ‘creating harmony’. Healthy relationships are all about harmony.  Marriage educators around the globe are involved in the important task of ‘creating harmony’: harmony within self, harmony in relationships, harmony in community and harmony in the world. Each day the conference will focus on the different harmony themes.

There will be opportunity to enrol in both pre- and post-conference workshops:

Pre Conference Workshop:
‘Working With Men’
Workshop with Andrew King
Wednesday 19 September 2007
Cost: $165.00

Post Conference Workshop:
‘Survival Skills For Healthy Families’
Four-day Family Wellness Instructor Training with George Doub
Monday 24 – Thursday 27 September 2007
Cost: $825.00 ($770.00 early bird if paid in full by 13 July 2007)

You can now download the application form for MARENC 2007 and the pre- and post-conference workshops from the Catholic Society for Marriage Education website.

For more information, contact Jozay Longden at marenc2007@hotmail.com or 0434 900411.

Thanks Dad photo competition

Thanks Dad National Photo Competition is calling for photo entries – entries close
25 August 2007.  Help us in thanking all men for the positive times they spend with our children. 

The Thanks Dad National Photographic Competition is a non-profit and community based men and family relationships initiative that started in Lismore in 2000 to affirm men for all their great work with our kids – not just dads but also uncles, grandfathers, foster dads, step dads, sports coaches or even older brothers who have provided a significant positive influence in a young person’s life! 

We are not looking for incredibly technical quality – rather at how well the photographer has captured that positive moment between the person and their dad or significant male carer. There are 11 categories in which you could win a cash prize of $100 – and at the same time thank someone special for all the great times they spend with their children.  Categories include special sections for Primary and Secondary school aged photographers.

Over the past six years nearly 15,000 people have voted for their favourite photo of men at on of our People’s Choice Exhibitions of all the best photos that we take into shopping centres, schools and community venues across N.S.W. and over half a million people have seen or heard of the competition.

Through interaction with the general public we have discovered the powerful emotional effects of these fathering images, strengthening their appreciation of the contributions men provide to both their family and their community. ‘Thanks Dad’ photos stimulate responses about the importance of men in family life. Entries can be posted to Community Connections at P.O. Box 1005 Lismore NSW 2480 or emailed to us at tdpcoord@communityconnections.org.au.

The Men and Family Relationships 2007 National Forum - 2 October

The Australian Government through FaCSIA is funding the Men and Family Relationships 2007 National Forum, which will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre on 2 October this year. 

The Forum aims to:

  • examine the role of men in families today and how they have changed in recent years
  • showcase the range of services that have now developed across Australia
  • provide practitioners with opportunities to network and explore new developments in service delivery to men and their families, and
  • highlight how men now actively engage supportive and relevant services to help themselves and their families.

Key speakers include Richard Fletcher (Engaging Fathers Project), Alan Jenkins (Nada Counselling), Andrew King (UnitingCare Burnside Training), Jeremy Hearne (Mensline Australia).  There will also be a range of workshop activities.

For more information go to the Men and Family Relationships Network website.

New resource for dads and families - Hey, Dad! For fathers who have a child with a disability

The Hey, Dad! For fathers who have a child with a disability Program was formally launched on Monday 25th June 2007. The event celebrated the program’s development and implementation through an effective partnership between UnitingCare Burnside, Centacare Broken Bay, The Spastic Centre and Lifestart.

Hey Dad! For fathers who have a child with a disability is a parenting education program for fathers who are parenting a child with a disability – physical, emotional or developmental. Many fathers want to be more involved with their child but can lack confidence and the support needed to raise a child with special needs. 

The program is comprised of:

  • Sessions for Dads and Kids Activity Workshops
  • 12 Sessions for Dads’ Workshops

The program manual allows services to respond to father’s self identified needs and deliver the program for 18 months without repeating any material.

Bush Beat Update

The FRSP Regional Rural and Remote Mental Health Project

Thirty-four service providers across seven states and territories were recently contacted to participate in the FRSP Regional Rural and Remote (RRR) mental health project survey.  These organisations were selected on the basis of nominations from FaCSIA State Offices.

The FRSP RRR mental health project is an initiative of the FRSP RRR Working Group (reported about in the third and fourth editions of FRSP Sector e-News) and was identified in response to providers’ reports that increasing numbers of clients attending FRSP organisations also experience mental health issues.

The project seeks to understand the impact on service providers when they respond to FRSP clients who are also experiencing mental health issues.  The project also aims to build an evidence base of the particular issues service providers working in RRR communities encounter when dealing with these clients.  The evidence base will be used to inform policy and program development in the FRSP and assist FaCSIA to respond to the needs of the sector.

While the focus of the project is on service provision in RRR areas, we understand service providers nationally are working with clients who present with multiple, complex issues (such as drug and alcohol issues, disability, immigration, mental health issues etc).  We are seeking information from metropolitan services as well as RRR services to better understand the challenges presented in RRR communities.

The sector will be informed of the key findings of the study in later editions of e-news and at the FRSP Conference in Melbourne on 1-2 August 2007.

Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council (CSHISC) - update

The Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council (CSHISC) are making minor editorial changes to the national competency based standards and suite of qualifications for the Family Relationship workforce.

Once the documents are finalised, the competency based qualifications will then be submitted to the National Quality Council for approval to forward to the Training Ministers for endorsement, expected to occur in July 2007.

The CSHISC is also conducting implementation workshops, which have been scheduled in each state and territory capital cities. On May 2007 a promotional invitation was sent to stakeholders including the Project’s Industry Reference Group members and to all stakeholders who participated in the validation workshops throughout the development phase of the project. The CSHISC has also promoted the workshops in the May addition of CSHISC’s monthly newsletter, CS&H Matters. 

Potential workshop participants should note that the Canberra workshops have been rescheduled from 2 and 3 August to 27 and 28 August 2007 (Post Separation and Early Intervention, respectively). Participants are also encouraged to book early, as some workshops are already booked to full capacity.

To register for the workshops and for further information about the Implementation Workshops please go to the CHSISC website or phone (02) 9263 9590.


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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, 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 13 July 2007. The next edition of FRSP Sector e-News will be released on 13 August 2007.

To provide feedback and/or to send topics of interest, email frspe-news@facsia.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@facsia.gov.au.

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