5C Relationship breakdown and re-partnering


Dr Stacey McGuiness,
Federal Circuit Court Of Australia

Karen Barker

Friday November 23 2018

Time: 8:25am – 8:55am

Room: Bluewater 1

5C Relationship breakdown and re-partnering

Responsive approaches to working with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders in the Family Law Courts



Providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families with an environment of cultural safety, when they attend upon the Family Law Courts, is crucial given the impact of colonization including the forced removal of their children, dislocation and dispossession. Culturally sensitive initiatives are being utilized within the Family Law Courts to recognize the importance of kin relationships in parenting disputes given the high rates of Indigenous children in the state protection system. The Family Law Courts acknowledge the important role that appropriate adult kin or community members can play in stepping up to care for children when parties’ parenting practices are compromised (e.g. due to factors such as drugs, alcohol, mental health issues and family violence).

The Cairns Registry, of the Family Law Courts, works to promote an inclusive approach to best support Indigenous children and their families. An Indigenous Family Liaison Officer (IFLO) functions as a critical link between the inquiries of the Judge hearing the matter and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander litigants. The IFLO and Family Consultants also collaborate to reduce Indigenous parties’ barriers to engagement and to ensure the involvement of significant adult kin in matters, particularly when the parents are unable to care for their children.

Within the Sydney Registry, specialized Indigenous lists are being run where one or more parties are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. At these court events, Indigenous parties have access to support workers from Aboriginal controlled community organisations and to legal representation. The community has worked hard to promote the message that Indigenous parties and kin have a level of self-determination in matters where parents are unable to care for their children as they can nominate appropriate adults willing to step into the role and to keep the child within the family and community.

Indigenous lists are now also being trialed in Adelaide.

This presentation will include an overview of these culturally responsive initiatives and a representative from both the Cairns and Sydney Registries will be present to talk about how they are being implemented within these settings.


Dr Stacey McGuiness is a psychologist with 20 years’ experience working with families. She has been a Family Consultant with the Family Law Courts for the past 13 years and has had the privilege of working with Indigenous families and on Kupai Omasker cases for the Torres Strait Islander community.

Karen Barker is social worker who has worked with families for over 30 years. She commenced working in the Australian Family Law Courts in the nineties and she is a Senior Family Consultant in Sydney and Wollongong. She works closely with Aboriginal community members and judicial officers at the Sydney Registry to assist Indigenous families to access the family law system.