Innovative approaches pay dividends in family law outcomes

Innovative approaches pay dividends in family law outcomes


Law conference

Denying a father access to his children during separation is one of the factors that contribute to adverse men’s health outcomes. Finding better ways to balance the demands of the legal system with the needs of separating parents was the focus of a recent conference run by the Men’s Health and Information Resource Centre, in conjunction with The Shed and Legal Aid.

The three day family law conference was designed to empower the Aboriginal community with knowledge of the Federal Family Law Courts, NSW based Care and Protection Courts and the NSW Criminal Courts.

The conference focussed on some of the legal and systemic factors that often keep fathers from having access to their children after separation. These imposed separation conditions usually go against the wishes of both parents but are applied by the courts and legal processes as a default measure. By adequately preparing families for this, partners can separate in a way which allows the father to have some access to the children and this is a strong motivator to remain connected to other aspects of life.

The Men's Health Information and Resource Centre (MHIRC) explores men's health and focuses particularly on the health status of marginalised or disadvantaged males. The Shed provides support to men who are considered to be at risk of serious stress and suicide, generally on account of cumulative stress due to disadvantage.

Professor John Macdonald, Director of MHIRC, says that the conference focused on the overall health of families, not just men.

‘MHIRC has been working with Aboriginal communities, both in terms of university engagement and research, for many years and is working on approaches to assist families, not just men,’ says John.

‘The conference is a superb example of how we work with community groups to share stories and contribute to better solutions by providing access to further information and knowledge. These wonderful initiatives are proving to be of immense benefit to both men and women as they navigate the often complex demands of family law.’

The event was organised with the assistance of the Greater Sydney Family Law Pathways Network, the Sydney Regional Aboriginal Men’s Network, Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, Cootamundra Girls Home, Aboriginal Children’s Services, Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Service and the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Services.

Caption: Rick Welsh, Project Officer for the Men's Health Information and Resource Centre.