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Thursday, 29 July 2004

Uniting Church family services welcomes commitment to families

Key family services providers of the Uniting Church have welcomed the Australian Government’s commitment to establishing family relationship centres that will put a focus on mediation and dispute resolution ahead of the court system.

Unifam Counselling, UnitingCare and UnitingCare Australia all welcomed the new changes that build on the existing partnerships between government and non-government agencies who have a track record for evidenced-based service delivery.

Clive Price, Executive Director of Unifam said that the concern that Unifam has had with the current adversarial system is that it in effect equips and encourages parents to fight better, longer, and with greater expertise. “The challenge is to find processes which promote the building of safe and enduring relationships between children and their parents. We hope that the Family Relationship Centres will allow and promote this to happen. The focus needs to be on fostering relationships post separation so that the interests and needs of all those involved are met and that primarily, it’s not about legal solutions” Mr rice said.

Mr Price said Unifam also welcomed the immediate injection of funds to existing services to strengthen the work they are already doing.

“This new funding will help us continue our existing work as the Family Relationship Centre network is set up. It recognises that the current system of mediation and counselling works as an early preventive measure and that counselling shouldn’t just be available when relationships end.”

Burnside CEO Jane Woodruff said the move to a non-adversarial system of mediation outside of the courts would have significant benefits for children and put children’s safety at the forefront.

“We are very pleased to see the Government has responded to the recent Federal Bipartisan Child Custody report in a way that recognises negotiation, family-by-family solutions and a non-adversarial approaches. From our wide-ranging experience working with children we know that joint solutions found outside of the courts deliver far better outcomes for all concerned, especially young children.

“Burnside acknowledges the focus on the important role of fathers particularly the emphasis on their role as parents and the needs of their children. It is refreshing to see the focus on them as fathers. We welcome an extension of these programs and certainty of funding for existing programs like those being run by Burnside.”

UnitingCare Australia National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds, said it was important that the new Family Relationship Centres worked cooperatively with existing services.

”The UnitingCare network would like to see improved integration between these new services and existing family support services, especially for those families for whom three hours of dispute resolution will not be enough and where children may be at risk.

“We welcome the release of a discussion paper on family law reforms and will be arguing the current processes of the Family Court must streamlined and made less expensive for those families where mediation fails or is not an option.”

Clive Price, Executive Director, Unifam: 0417 681 686
Jane Woodruff, CEO, Burnside: 0402 891 325
Lin Hatfield Dodds, UnitingCare Australia: 0408 402 222