No. 9, 2021 | 18 June 2021
From FRSA's Executive Director
Back in the very early days of the COVID-19 Pandemic, in mid-late April last year, Professor Bruce Smyth and I were having a bit of a conversation about how the Pandemic lockdown was impacting on the experience of families traversing the family law system in Australia. From that conversation a few extra voices gathered around the topic “COVID-19 in Australia: Impacts on Separated Families, Family Law Professionals and Family Courts” and an article was written and was published in the “Family Court Review”, the American Journal of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. I am proud to share with you that the article won the Meyer Elkin Essay Award – the first time that Australian authors have won the award. My sincere congratulations to co-authors: Professor Bruce Smyth; Lawrie Maloney, Judge Joe Harman and Dr Marian Esler on the win!
Reading back through the article it captures a ‘point in time’ perspective on the challenges and opportunities the Pandemic imposed on the Family Law system. In particular, there was a radical shift to telepractice in some service provision where face-to-face service delivery was not possible. This radical shift was of course felt, to varying degrees, across all family and relationship services in the sector.
Here at FRSA we have been flagging for some time our intention to look more forensically into the use of telepractice in the family and relationship services sector. We are on the cusp of starting this work with our members, literally, and are very excited to have commissioned the Australian Institute of Family Studies to work on this project. There is more on this below.
In the last fortnight we have also delivered our first online Conference, the Child Inclusive Practice Forum. We were initially a little hesitant to move online given we are a sector filled with ‘people people’ so missing out on the face to face element of these events felt like such a loss. But, we managed to double registration numbers and therefore bring an extra 200 people into a conversation about child inclusive practice. My thanks to keynote speakers, panellists, all CIP presenters, sponsors and the CIP Clinical Committee for their adaptability to this online Forum. You created a very rich conversation and the feedback thus far is extremely encouraging. For those who have registered, you have access to all the panels, keynotes and presentations for the next 60 days – enjoy!
The Queen’s Birthday Honours were announced earlier this week with a number of connections to the FRSA Membership. Sincere congratulations to CEO of Relationship Matters Counselling and Mediation, Janet Jukes, for being awarded an OAM for her service to the community through LGBTQI advocacy and social welfare organisations; to the President of OzChild, Helen Maxwell Wright, awarded an AM for her dedication to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes of others; and former YFS Board Director, Tim Keeler, awarded an AM for leading community efforts to reduce domestic and family violence in Logan. In a recent edition of the e-bulletin I noted that Dr Brian Babbington, CEO of Families Australia will be retiring this year. It was lovely to see his work acknowledged with a Queen’s Birthday Honour, receiving an AM for his significant service to children through safety and well-being initiatives.
I have no doubt our Victorian connections are looking forward to the easing of restrictions just ahead of the weekend. You have, without a doubt, weathered the most of this COVID-19 storm!
FRSA Executive Director
Use of Telepractice in the Family and Relationship Services Sector
FRSA has commissioned the Australian Institute of Family Studies to undertake research into the use of telepractice in the family and relationship services sector.
FRSA members will soon receive an invitation to contribute to this project. If you choose to take part, you will be invited to complete an online survey which should take about 15 mins. The survey will ask about things like your use of telepractice, factors that support or constrain use and the types of clients and services you think telepractice is best suited to.
Look out for your invitation arriving soon.
New ANROWS synthesis
A newly released ANROWS synthesis connects findings from 20 research studies focusing on perpetrator interventions. The 20 reports, commissioned between 2018 and 2020, support the growing policy focus on perpetrators of domestic, family and sexual violence.
The synthesis identifies five elements that are required for improving services and systems to better respond to men’s use of violence:
- addressing trauma and inequality
- providing early and holistic support for associated issues
- supporting community-led approaches
- integrating service systems
- building workforce capacity.
How to reduce child poverty in Australia research
New research from the Australian National University has Social Ventures Australia (SVA) and Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) calling on the government to raise income support rates given the current levels predict dire outcomes for children and families relying on social security payments.
The research primarily focused on the impacts of the coronavirus supplement on child poverty and modelled what level of income support would be needed to reduce poverty and financial stress significantly. Results are published in the report Financial Stress and Social Security Settings in Australia.
Based on the modelling, SVA and BSL have also presented recommendations to government aiming to reduce child poverty in Australia.
COVID-19 INSIGHTS SNAPSHOT: Emerging from COVID-19
With increasing numbers of Australians being vaccinated against COVID-19, and international borders still closed, life in Australia is transitioning to a new normal. Yet many students and families supported by The Smith Family continue to struggle.
As a national children’s education charity supporting almost 58,000 students in need through the education support program Learning for Life, and with extensive networks in more than 740 Australian schools, The Smith Family has a unique insight into what’s happening in some of our nation’s most disadvantaged communities.
The Smith Family’s Emerging from COVID-19: Insights Snapshot highlights significant ongoing challenges affecting families, which are impacting on some children’s experiences at school. These include employment and economic instability, the housing crisis, some students struggling to reengage in their learning and the continuing negative effects of the digital divide.
Keeping Our Kids Safe
SNAICC and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), has created two resources which apply a cultural lens to the National Principles for Child Safe organisations to help them think about how to make themselves safer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children:
- A guide, Keeping Our Kids Safe: Cultural Safety and the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, that gives practical advice on how to implement the National Principles in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities
- Animated video, Keeping Our Kids Safe: Understanding Cultural Safety in Child Safe Organisations, that gives viewers an introduction to the National Principles through a cultural lens.
ACNC Commissioner speaks to changes to governance standard 3
At a recent Senate Estimates hearing, head of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), Dr Gary Johns, responded to questions on the proposed changes to governance standard 3.
As many readers will be aware, the charities sector has been deeply concerned about the proposed changes, which expand the reasons for which a charity can be deregistered to include summary offences, such as trespassing, theft, vandalism or assault. The proposed changes would allow the ACNC commissioner to revoke an organisation’s charitable status if they reasonably believed it was “more likely than not that the entity will not comply with a governance standard” – a very low bar, with potentially serious consequences.
The Morrison government has argued these changes are needed to stop organisations using their charitable status to commit unlawful acts. Yet the ACNC Commissioner confirmed to the Senate Committee that “very few” organisations have lost their charitable status for breaking the law. This makes it very difficult to understand why the Government is intent on introducing such severe and burdensome measures.
The Treasury undertook consultation on the proposed changes earlier this year.
Expanding the lens on child inclusive practice
After an unexpected year, we were excited to bring the sector together online for this event. And without the constraints of travelling to another city, we had our biggest delegation yet! More than 400 delegates, including mediators, social workers, psychologists, counsellors and more, joined us from all over Australia and even some from overseas.
This year the theme was “Expanding the Lens: Child Inclusion and Vulnerable Children”.
The day kicked off with a panel discussion on “What the Pandemic has taught us about the needs of children: Implications for policy and practice”, facilitated by Professor Jennifer McIntosh AM with panellists:
- Anne Hollands, National Children’s Commissioner
- Dr Joe Tucci, CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation
- John Lochowiak, Centacare Catholic Family Services
The panellists observed that the pandemic brought with it both threats – for example, an elevated risk of family violence – and opportunities for children. Dr Tucci noted that lockdown restrictions gave some families the time and space to connect in ways they hadn’t before. Panellists further observed that the pandemic has provided a one in a generation opportunity to develop a sustainable overarching policy framework that places children centre-stage.
Two sets of concurrent sessions were held across the following themes: Programme design improvement incorporating the feedback of children, the role of telepractice when working with children – learnings from COVID, Child inclusive Practice within Family Law, and Child Inclusive Practice across service domains/contexts.
The Forum ended with a keynote address from Professor Jennifer McIntosh AM titled, “Child Inclusion: When nothing else would work”.
Last week, evaluation surveys were sent out to all who attended the Forum and it’s not too late to share your views. We would love you to spend 10 minutes in providing feedback, to capture the highlights of this year’s Forum and make the next Forum even better.
If you registered for the Forum, you will be able to access the video recordings and PowerPoint presentations via the CIP Forum portal for up to 60 days post Forum.
To the sector, our delegates, our Gold and Panel sponsor Children Beyond Dispute and the clinical committee – thank you! Your ongoing support made the Forum a resounding success.
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention public hearings
The Parliamentary House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention held a further three public hearings on 3 June, 16 June and 17 June. 2021.
Witnesses from Mental Health Australia, Suicide Prevention Australia, Wesley Mission, Australian Rural Health Education Network, Royal Flying Doctors Service of Australia, Volunteering ACT and Volunteering Australia appeared before the Committee to give evidence.
Transcripts of these public hearings will be available on the inquiry website.
The final report of the Committee is due by 1 November 2021.
Attorneys-General hold extraordinary meeting
On 9 June an extraordinary meeting of the Australian Attorney-General and Attorneys-General from across the states and territories was held to progress a number of key reforms to keep women and children safe.
Key outcomes of the meeting included:
- agreeing to co-design national principles to develop a common understanding of coercive control and consider matters in relation to criminalisation
- working together to develop a plan of work on criminal justice responses to sexual assault
- progressing the implementation of a number of recommendations of the Respect@Work report.
You can read the Meeting of Attorneys-General (MAG) communiqué here.
Improving the visibility of superannuation assets in family law proceedings
On 31 May 2021, the Morrison Government released exposure draft legislation that will make it easier to identify superannuation assets in family law proceedings.
Government is seeking feedback on the Bill. The draft legislation and supporting materials are available on the Treasury website. Consultation will close on 28 June 2021.
Consultation on a New Decision-Making Framework for Family Law Property Matters
The Attorney-General’s Department consultation on a new decision-making framework for property matters in family law is underway.
Submissions close on 9 July 2021. For more information visit the Attorney-General’s Department website.
Implementing the successor plan to the National Framework – Discussion paper
The Department of Social Services has opened consultation on implementing the successor plan to the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020.
A discussion paper has been released, which is informed by findings from the 2019-2020 national consultations led by Families Australia. Submissions are due by 5.00pm, 26 July 2021.
Developing the next National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children
The public consultation on the next National Plan to reduce family, domestic and sexual violence is open. You can have your say here. The consultation closes 11:59pm, Saturday 31 July 2021.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is commemorated each year on 15 June. The day is used to celebrate older people, empowering and informing them as a way of preventing their mistreatment and harm. The day also aims to educate the community about elder abuse and spread awareness.
Here is a snapshot of what FRSA members have been doing to commemorate the day:
The Benevolent Society has written a piece about their Ageing Services team’s commitment to the safety and wellbeing of older clients, “Wellbeing is a priority on World Elder Abuse Day”.
UnitingCare’s Luke Lindsay spoke to ABC Brisbane’s about their Elder Abuse Helpline.
Anglicare Tasmania shared how their staff ensure the welfare of the people they support.
Legal Aid NSW staff raised awareness of elder abuse at Gosford Hospital and Erina Fair NSW.
Relationships Australia NSW has put together a resource on how to spot the warning signs of elder abuse.
To locate/access elder abuse support services in your area from FRSA Members visit our Member Directory.
Men's Health Week
Men’s Health Week (14-21 June) is an opportunity for Australian men to consider how change and life stressors may be triggers for reactions like stress, anxiety and anger. It is also a time for us to connect with the men in our lives and talk to them about recognising these triggers.
Here are some resources FRSA members have put together for the week:
CatholicCare Diocese of Broken Bay have shared some valuable lessons to help men get active, get healthy, and live longer.
Relationships Australia Victoria’s Support for Fathers project announced a newly updated suite of resources for dads and families.
Interrelate shared some tips for helping boys express their emotions healthily.
Relationships Australia South Australia complied some articles, booklets and tips for men and boys. These focus on building strong relationships, parenting, coping with grief and loss and improving mental health.
Relationships Australia Western Australia held a webinar on Supporting Men’s Mental Health & Relationships, you can watch the webinar here.
Third Sector Awards nominations open
Nominations are now open for the 2021 Third Sector Awards. The awards present a special occasion for celebrating and recognising best NFP practice around Australia. There are 10 major categories you can nominate for:
- Emerging leader of the year
- CEO of the year
- Board Director of the year
- Volunteer of the year
- Social entrepreneur of the year
- Campaign/marketing executive of the year
- Young leader of the year
- Influencer of the year – Judge’s choie
- Small Charity of the year (10 people or less)
- Emerging NFP of the year
Find out how you can nominate via their website.
Upcoming Grant Opportunity - Redress Support Services
A new open competitive grant opportunity for Redress Support Services (RSS) will be open for applications later in 2021 for RSS grants from 2022—23 to 2023—24.
The RSS grant opportunity will be a continuation of the RSS program, available in every state and territory and providing free, confidential practical and emotional support to people before, during and after applying to the National Redress Scheme.
Further information about the National Redress Scheme is available on the website.
Australia Post 2021 Community Grants Program now open
The 2021 Australia Post Community Grants Program is now open. The program provides grants of up to $10,000 to eligible community-led, local projects that connect individuals and communities to improve mental health and wellbeing.
Applications close 11:59pm AEST on 4 July 2021. Find out more or apply via their website.
Counsellor | Centacare FNQ
DFV Child Counsellor | Relationships Australia QLD
Senior Financial Protection Service Coordinator | Relationships Australia QLD
Tertiary Family Support Worker | Relationships Australia QLD
Senior Family Violence Practitioner – South Eastern Melbourne | Relationships Australia Victoria
Counsellor Couple, Family and Child – Kew | Relationships Australia Victoria
Families For Life Social Worker (Clayton based) | Key Assests
2021 State of Reconciliation in Australia report | Reconciliation Australia
The report captures a snapshot of where we are on our reconciliation journey, where we need to go, and how we are going to get there.
New guide to establishing a children and young people’s advisory group | Advocate for Children & Young People
The guide outlines how to establish a children and young people’s advisory group, and includes good practice examples and checklists.
This short article outlines what practitioners should consider when making decisions about if and how to engage clients through digital technologies.
The Internet and end of life | Demos
As the world continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an emerging need for bereavement support at a critical level. This report finds that online spaces are a crucial cornerstone of support to people grieving and people at the end of their life, providing comfort, connection and community.
This short article explores the future directions to strengthen the care of Australian children with complex mental health conditions.
‘Safe From Violence’ 2021 Edition | Relationships Australia Victoria
In this booklet there is information and resources to help women impacted by family violence understand the nature of violence in relationships and guide them through separation. The updated 2021 edition includes a new section on coercive control, available on page four.
2021-22 Budget at a glance | Parliamentary Budget Office
Parliamentary Budget Office has released the report 2021-22 Budget at a glance. This publication provides a new graphical summary of information contained in the 2021-22 Budget, including comparisons with previous budget updates.
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