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Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

$397.2 million Generational Change to Family Law System

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Philip Ruddock MP, Attorney-General

The biggest ever investment in the family law system – $397.2 million over four years – was announced today by Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock and Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson.The Australian Government recognises the impact of family breakdown on hundreds of thousands of Australian children each year, as well as the wider community. It is committed to tackling this difficult issue with bold family law reforms and by funding more than a hundred new services to assist families experiencing relationship difficulties.

The Government wants to bring about a cultural change in the way family breakdowns are handled. This $397.2 million package will give separating parents the support they need to sit down across the table and agree what is best for their children, rather than fighting in the courtroom.

The centrepiece of the package is $189 million to establish 65 Family Relationship Centres, a place where all families can go to get help with their relationship difficulties. The centres will be a visible entry point into the family law system, which will provide some mediation services and refer families to other appropriate services. There will also be a national telephone advice line and website which could help up to 720,000 people over the next four years.

The package will also:

  • increase spending by $13.4 million over four years to increase the number of mediators in addition to those in Family Relationship Centres so more separating parents have the opportunity to sit down and agree on what is best for their children;
  • quadruple the number of Contact Orders Programs, which already successfully help thousands of highly conflicted separated parents to work together and ensure their children have a relationship with both their parents, at a cost of $23.3 million over four years;
  • fund 30 new children’s contact services, which are safe neutral places for separated parents to handover and spend time with their children, at a cost of $17 million over four years; and
  • give rural and Indigenous communities access to family mediation and counselling services, in some communities for the first time, through an outreach program.

Some families need extra help to stay together. Services giving families information, education and counselling are vital in preventing family separation. The Government will also significantly expand early intervention services including:

  • increased funding to Men’s Line Australia to help fathers be more involved in parenting, both before and after separation, and get the support they need;
  • 45 men and family relationship services to assist men to manage relationship difficulties with partners and children, including ex- partners and step-children.
  • up to 40 new pre-marriage and family relationship education services to equip couples with skills to start a family ;
  • 35 family relationship counselling and skills services to assist parents, children and young people achieve and sustain relationships; and
  • investing more than $7 million to improve delivery of specialised family violence services.

The Government already funds more than 100 community organisations to deliver family relationship services to Australian families. In recognition of their valuable work the Government will maintain the 30 per cent rise in funding announced by the Prime Minister last year, at a cost of $63.1 million over the next four years.

This package is part of a response to the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs Every picture tells a story.