5W Relationship breakdown and re-partnering


Dr Michael Kelly,
Relationships Australia Tasmania

Dr Jamie Lee,
Relationships Australia South Australia

Friday November 23 2018

Time: 10:00am – 10:30am

Room: Mossman Ballroom

5W Relationship breakdown and re-partnering

Over the barriers, onto the benefits: How practitioners changed their minds about universal risk screening


Many practitioners are reluctant to use universal risk screening tools in the family and relationships services sector. This is despite evidence showing that the tools work and surveys showing clients may not disclose even significant safety risks (eg Wells et al., 2018; Kaspiew et al., 2015). Relationships Australia Tasmania (RA Tas) planned to launch universal risk screening in 2017 knowing many of its staff might be equally unconvinced. Therefore the RA Tas implementation included significant support for staff to get over the barriers and onto the benefits, along with independent evaluation of the multi-faceted implementation by Relationships Australia South Australia (RASA). We report here on practitioner attitude shift after launching universal risk screening.

RASA asked RA Tas staff to complete an anonymous “Attitudes to Screening” survey nine months before and after launch of universal screening, with RA Tas staff also giving anonymous qualitative feedback three months after launch. Sample sizes were 53 (pre survey), 40 (qualitative feedback) and 31 (post survey) and were all statistically equivalent on key demographics. As expected, we found that while RA Tas staff were already broadly confident in their practice before launch, and that they indicated many possible barriers to adopting screening. But after launch, the experience of doing screening meant staff had much greater confidence and knowledge in practice, and, crucially, far fewer worries about clients reactions to screening and poor engagement. Qualitative feedback confirmed some staff were invigorated by the implementation and delighted in using “screening to engage” rather than “screening to exclude” clients.

We conclude that purposeful and supportive implementation has left no RA Tas staff member behind; instead, they became more convinced, enthused and accepting of screening. We recommend that other organisations implement universal risk screening with practitioner attitude change in mind.


Michael oversees services to support Tasmanians enjoy positive, respectful and fulfilling relationships. He has worked in a number of senior management NGO roles. Michael has also worked as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and Community Development Consultant. He graduated in 2004 with a doctorate in Education from University of Tasmania.