A mediation service designed to assist families going through separation has marked ten years in the Northern Territory. Set up as one of the first fifteen Family Relationship Centres in Australia, the Darwin-based service has been run by Relationships Australia NT since it was established by the Australian Government following changes in the Family Law Act in 2006.
These changes meant that from July 2007 onwards, family dispute resolution was compulsory in all suitable cases prior to applying to the courts for orders. The development of engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients has been extremely important and Northern Territory staff have lead the way with research and modelling for best practice in mediation with Aboriginal families. Relationships Australia marked the tenth anniversary of the Darwin Family Relationship centre with a special lunch on Monday 29th August, featuring guest presenter acclaimed clinical child psychologist, family therapist and research consultant Professor Jennifer McIntosh.
Professor McIntosh outlined the latest research on divorce and its impact on children in her presentation ‘Children’s Outcomes in conflicted Family Separation and Pathways of Prevention: the Current Evidence’ This presentation outlined current research on the complex relationships between divorce and conflict exposures in childhood, and life-course outcomes, and emphasised the place for timely intervention in supporting parental focus and responsive co-parenting through child inclusive practice.
Professor McIntosh also held a one day Young Children in Divorce & Separation workshop with child-inclusive teams from Relationships Australia NT and Anglicare Resolve. This program, developed by Professor McIntosh and Children Beyond Dispute, provides information about early development and targets the important developmental considerations for separated parents. It also provides insights into the complexities for children of living in family conflict and separation, the range of challenges these children carry with them into the learning environment and opportunities for parents in accompanying the child through the separation journey.