FRSA National Conference 2024 – Family and Relationship Services – Valued now and into the future

FRSA held its annual National Conference at the Pullman Melbourne on the Park, 13-16 May, on the lands of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung peoples.

It is always a pleasure to bring the sector together to share research, practice learnings and insights and we were thrilled to have a new record number of more than 630 delegates join us for this year’s conference. Practitioners, academics and policy makers working to support children, families and communities came together to share and explore our sector’s value and our sector’s potential.

The week started with five well subscribed pre-Conference workshops:

  • Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Workshop – Dadirri: Ancient Aboriginal Mindfulness Traditions presented by We Al-li
  • Communities for Children Facilitating Partner (CfC FP) Workshop
  • Family Law Workshop
  • LGBTIQA+ Family Practice presented by Drummond Street Services
  • Using evidence to paint a picture: Finding opportunities for learning, growth and sharing the success of child and family services facilitated by the Child and Family Evidence team at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

On Tuesday 14 May, we were honoured to have Wurundjeri man, Colin Hunter Jnr Jnr, provide a Welcome to Country.

The Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, Minister for Social Services welcomed delegates via a pre-recorded message, due to it being a parliamentary sitting week and Budget night. This was followed by a keynote address from Sarina Lacey and Dennis McCarthy from The Centre for International Economics. As the key authors of FRSA’s commissioned report, Family and Relationship Services Economic Evaluation: Using cost-benefit analysis to assess the value of services, they spoke on Demonstrating the Value of Family and Relationship Services – the Economic analysis.

Our first panel discussion – Under the microscope: The importance of knowing and communicating our value – was chaired by FRSA’s Executive Director, Jackie Brady and brought diverse perspectives to the discussion topic. Panellists included:

  • Emily MacLoud, Design Strategist, Portable
  • Dr Stewart Muir, Executive Manager of the Child & Family Evidence, Australian Institute of Family Studies
  • Nyea Pritchard, The Zone Intersectional Youth Alcohol and other Drug Service – Community Engagement and Development Worker, Drummond Street Services
  • Veronica Westacott, Branch Manager for Family Policy, Department of Social Services

During morning tea our next Keynote Speaker, Journalist, Broadcaster and Author, Julia Baird greeted delegates during a book signing. Her keynote presentation Bright Shining: How grace changes everything, brought a refreshing change in tone and focus and was a reminder of the importance of finding and celebrating moments of awe.

Day two of the Conference opened with another great plenary line-up. Attorney-General, the Hon Mark Dreyfuss KC MP provided a pre-recorded address outlining his support for a more child focused family law system, the work of family law practitioners and for the FRSA National Conference.

This was followed by a keynote address by Tania Farha, CEO of Safe and Equal titled, Family Violence reform in Victoria – still a leading light or fading embers?

Panel discussion two – How early intervention can ‘change the trajectory’ for individuals and families at risk of family violence was chaired by Dr Rae Kaspiew, Australian Institute of Family Studies and brought together four panellists to respond to reflect on the potential of our sector’s early intervention work in mitigating family violence. Panellists included:

  • Judge Alexandra Harland, Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia
  • Karen Bevan, CEO, Full Stop Australia
  • Phillip Ripper, CEO, No to Violence
  • Allison Wainwright, CEO, Family Life

The great richness and diversity of the sector was showcased each and every day in the concurrent session program. With 70 presentations and five symposiums, symposiums delivered by FRSA members and stakeholders, we felt privileged to bring this part of the program to delegates. Slides from these presentations will be made available via the FRSA Conference page subject to author permission. Keynote presentations and the Panel Discussions will be uploaded to FRSA’s YouTube channel in the coming weeks.

The Conference closed with an engaging and thought provoking fireside chat hosted by FRSA’s Jackie Brady with advocate, activist and survivor, Grace Tame. Grace sharing her story of courage and dedication to advocacy work to prevent and respond to sexual abuse of children and others, was impressive and moving.

Gala dinner

The work our sector does is deeply rewarding but also challenging. The Conference Gala Dinner provides an opportunity to come together, relax and celebrate all that the sector has achieved over the previous year. This year’s dinner was held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the Members Dining Room with more than 400 Delegates registered!

We were delighted to have Djirri Djirri – the only Wurundjeri female dance group – start the evening with an acknowledgement to country and performance; providing an insight into local First Nations culture by sharing ancient knowledge through traditional songs, stories, and dance.

Local band, the Baker Boys Band kept people dancing till the reluctant close of the evening!

Conference e-Journal

This year we were thrilled to publish a conference e-Journal, which was released at the close of the event. The 2024 e-Journal features 7 papers – 3 Articles and 4 Practice Insights papers – covering diverse topics that speak to particular cohorts at different stages through the lifecourse. The e-Journal showcases a breadth of practice wisdom, research evidence and insights that reflect our sector’s value and our sector’s potential. The result is an exciting collection of papers that will provoke thought and inspire action across the sector and more broadly.