Family Law Workshop


Dr Rae Kaspiew
Australian Institute of Family Studies

Dr Andrew Bickerdike
Relationships Australia Victoria

Zoe Locke
CatholicCare Social Services Southwest Queensland

Melanie Pearse
Anglicare WA

Richard Johnson

April O’Mara
Centacare Brisbane

Anne-Marie Rice
National Registrar Operations and Practice, Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia

Rebecca Mills
Attorney-General’s Department

Monday 15 May 2023

Time: 10am – 5pm

Room: Room 5

Pre-Conference Workshop

Family Law Workshop

The Family Law Workshop will include presentations on key topics as well as plenty of opportunity for participants to discuss current and emerging issues for Family Law services and professionals.

In November 2018, the Government announced it would provide additional funding to help keep families out of court. This included $13 million each year to the 65 Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) to deliver property mediation, $10.3m in new funding for Legal Aid Commissions to conduct a two-year trial of lawyer-assisted property mediation, and $5.9 million for small claims property pilots – Priority Property Pools Under $500,000 (PPP500).

The morning session will begin with a presentation by Dr Rae Kaspiew from the Australian Institute of Family Studies titled, Evaluation of the Lawyer-Assisted Family Law Property Mediation: Legal Aid Commission Trial. Rae will share key findings from the evaluation of this trial, with a focus on insights that may be of particular interest to FRSA Members.

The funding for property mediation for FRCs was described as ‘ongoing’ and therefore, unlike the lawyer assisted property mediation pilot and the PPP500 pilots announced at the same time, property mediation through the FRCs has not been evaluated. This does leave an evidence gap and we see the value of focusing attention on this space. The review of the Family Relationship Services Program, advised by the Attorney-General’s Department earlier this year provides further impetus for the FRSA Membership to start thinking collectively about property mediation.

Following her presentation, Rae will chair a panel discussion, Family Relationship Centres – Property mediation: taking stock, with Members from the FRSA network.


  • Dr Andrew Bickerdike, Relationships Australia Victoria
  • Zoe Locke, CatholicCare Social Services Southwest Queensland
  • Melanie Pearse, Anglicare WA
  • Richard Johnson, UnitingCare
  • April O’Mara, Centacare Brisbane

This panel discussion provides an opportunity for Members to speak candidly about what is working, what could be improved or done differently and how well property mediation is sitting with other family law and family relationship service offerings. There will be plenty of opportunity for all Workshop attendees to share their experiences and ideas.

The afternoon session will commence with a presentation from Senior Judicial Register, Anne-Marie Rice, who will discuss innovations to reduce risk and enhance safety in the Federal Circuit and Family Court. This session will provide an opportunity to consider the intersection of the Court’s changes with the broader family law system. Following this, Rebecca Mills,  Acting Assistant Secretary Family Law Branch, Attorney-General’s Department, will provide a briefing on matters of interest, concluding with a Q&A session.


Dr Rae Kaspiew leads the research programs at the Australian Institute of Family Studies that focus on systems and services. She is a socio-legal researcher with particular expertise in research on complex issues that cause challenges for families. She has been involved in an extensive range of studies and is the lead author of two large scale evaluations of successive waves of reforms in family law (the 2006 and 2012 reforms). She led the team that completed the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study in 2021 and the Compliance with and Enforcement of Family Law Parenting Orders Project in 2022. She contributed to the Evaluations of the Lawyer-assisted Family Law Property Mediation: Legal Aid Commission Trial and the Small Claims Property Pilots that were published in 2022. Themes included her work include the extent to which systems and services meet the needs of people affected by elder abuse and family violence.

In 2021, the Attorney General appointed Rae to her third term on Family Law Council, a body that provides expert policy advice on family law. Rae was on the organising committee for the 2022 National Elder Abuse Conference. She was also on the expert advisory group for the Australian Law Reform Commission’s reference on safeguarding the right of older Australians, April 2016-May 2017.

Rae was also a member of the Violence Against Women Advisory Group (2009-2011) that advised the federal Minister for the Status of Women on the implementation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women. She is also on the editorial board of the Australian Journal of Family Law.

Dr Andrew Bickerdike is CEO of Relationships Australia Victoria (RAV). He holds tertiary qualifications in both economics and psychology and a Doctorate in Dispute Resolution.  Andrew has experience and specialist training in individual, couple and family therapy, and family dispute resolution and has practiced as a mediator and family dispute resolution practitioner for over 20 years.  Andrew is a former member of NADRAC (National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council) and current member of its successor, ADRAC (Australian Dispute Resolution Advisory Council).  He is also a past Director on the Mediations Standards Board, a past Board member of the Australian Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and is a current member of the Family Law Council. In 2018 Andrew was appointed as a part-time Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission to the Review of the Family Law System. Andrew has a particular interest in research and evaluation and has initiated and implemented many research projects examining the efficacy of family services programs in the naturalistic setting. He is an Industry Partner in past and current Australian Research Council Linkage research projects. Collectively these research activities have attracted national and international interest and have influenced the design of models of practice.

With over two decades of professional experience in the not-for-profit sector, Zoe Locke is now the Deputy Director at CatholicCare Social Services in Toowoomba.  Zoe has extensive leadership experience in the areas of child protection, family law, CALD settlement and Youth Justice as well as Employee Assistance Programs and workplace mediation and coaching services. 

After completing a Bachelor of Social Science (Human Services), Zoe started her career in residential and foster care services. It was in this sector that Zoe first embraced the need for strong and compassionate leadership.  Zoe later transitioned into family law mediation work, where she practiced as a Family Dispute Resolution (FDRP), Child Consultant and Nationally Accredited Mediator (NMAS). Zoe is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors course (GAICD).

Zoe’s compassionate leadership style, openness to innovation and commitment to empowering others has been a powerful combination with proven success across a variety of professional services settings.  Zoe nominates staff wellbeing and workplace culture as being key components in fostering service innovation and creative problem-solving.

It was under Zoe’s dedicated leadership, that the Toowoomba FRC Team developed a unique model of legally assisted mediation that won them 2022 Project of the Year at the Australian ADR Awards.

Melanie Pearse is Anglicare WA’s Family Law Practice Consultant. Melanie is a Social Worker, Mediator and FDRP with over 30 years experience in Family Law Services. Melanie was essentially the architect of several Family Law pilot projects in her support of Anglicare WA’s services, that interact with the Family Court of WA.

Richard Johnson works as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner on the Sunshine Coast Qld.  His particular interest in mediation developed over 30 years of working in the human services sector, both in front-line and senior management positions.  He has experienced numerous case management models for service delivery and has an intense interest in the continued improvement of Family Dispute Resolution and helping clients avoid proceeding to court.   Property settlement mediation is a particular area for Richard.  Rather than solely focusing on the monetary value of the property pool, Richard will tease out and clarify other values which the client attributes to the property which can free them up with how they might agree to a settlement and move on with their lives. Broadly speaking this falls into the pragmatic (utility) value and the symbolic value.  Richard commenced his career as a RN, and has degrees in Social Science, Counselling and Master of Counselling.

Dr April O’Mara is an experienced Psychologist, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, and Reg 7 Family Consultant who specialises in working with separated families. April has a background in both law and psychology, and completed her PhD, examining ways to enhance Family Dispute Resolution to improve outcomes for separated families. April has worked in a number of senior management roles within the community sector providing expert assistance in the development and implementation of best practice, introduction of practice governance, practice leadership, training and development, ensuring continuous improvement, and evaluating and reporting on the effectiveness of service delivery. April has also worked in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia and was the Senior Family Consultant – National Professional Development.

April is currently the General Manager – Practice Governance for Centacare Brisbane. Within this role, April and her team have worked to address a range of workforce issues within Family Relationship Centres, including recruitment and retention, practice competencies, advance skills training for Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners, and are working to ensure innovation in practice within Family Dispute Resolution.

Senior Judicial Registrar Anne-Marie Rice is a multi-award winning lawyer, Accredited Family Law Specialist, Accredited Mediator and Arbitrator and Registered FDRP. Senior Judicial Registrar Rice began her career as a Legal Associate in the Family Court in 1998 and has been a prior executive member of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia, a former member of various Queensland Law Society Committees including the Specialist Accreditation committee and a past FLPA (Qld) vice-president. She joined the Courts in July 2020 and, as a senior member of the leadership team, is responsible for the expansion of the Court’s dispute resolution programs and Registrar work practices.

Anne-Marie has been delivering local, national and international key note addresses, conference papers and workshops for lawyers and non-lawyers for 20 years. She has a philosophy that “conflict can be resolved without combat” and her acceptance speech after being named the 2018 WLAQ Woman Lawyer of the Year, in which she spoke of the exhaustion of a singularly aggressive approach to legal practice, became an industry and social media sensation. Anne-Marie taught the undergraduate Family Law subject at the University of Queensland for many years prior to joining the Court and she continues to teach the post graduate Mediation and Conflict Management Course at that university.

Rebecca Mills has worked in various roles for the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Home Affairs since 2010. These have included leading Australia’s response to combat human trafficking and slavery offences, including engaging with regional counterparts in the Indo-Pacific to strengthen their human trafficking laws, and leading development of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act 2018 to combat slavery in business supply chains; delivering family safety policy reform, including engagement with the states and territories to develop the National Principles on Coercive Control,  and participating in a taskforce to deliver the Review of the Response to Serious Incidents in the Parliamentary Workplace in 2021 (the Foster review). Currently, Rebecca’s is an A/g Assistant Secretary in AGD’s Family Law Branch. This role focuses on the family law system, including responsibility for administration of and reforms to the Family Law Act 1975, and managing delivery of a suite of family law services nationwide. Prior to her work in the Australian Public Service, Rebecca was an Adviser to the former Assistant Minister for Pacific Island Affairs, the Hon Duncan Kerr SC.