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Sweeping Changes to the Family Court System announced.

Pre-empting the current review into the Family Court System the Australian Attorney General, Christian Porter, announced on the 30th May 2018 that the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court will merge. The change is to take effect from the 1st January 2019. The new court will be called the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCA). A new Family Law Appeals Division of the Federal Court of Australia (FLAD) will also be established to hear appeals from the FCFCA.

Western Australia has it’s own family court however it appears that the appeals divisions will hear some appeals from the Family Court of Western Australia although the Attorney General does not have the constitutional power to merge the Western Australian court into the rest of the country.

The intention is to speed up the process of settling family disputes which end up in court.

“Family break-up is a traumatic time for both parties and children, as well as the wider family. We have a responsibility to ensure that systems are in place to assist those families who cannot resolve matters without legal intevention are as efficient, and that the systems itself does not exacerbate the trauma of family break up, especially for children.

It’s estimated that these reforms will improve the efficiency of the federal family law system by up to a third, with the potential in time to allow up to an extra 8,000 cases to be resolved each and every year.”

Christian Porter, Attorney General

The Family Court currently hears family law cases involving complex financial arrangements, trusts, serious parenting arguments, allegations of child abuse in custody arrangements and protracted family disputes.

The Federal Circuit Court deals with the rest.

The new court will be divided into two divisions:

  • Division 1 will comprise the existing judges of the Family Court of Australia and deal only with family law matters.
  • Division 2 will comprise the existing judges of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and deal with family law matters and general federal law matters.

The Attorney-General said reform of the courts dealing with family matters is long-overdue.

Current situation

In the 2016-2017 financial year there were about 106,000 family law applications.

  •  almost 44,000 divorce applications in the Federal Circuit Court
  • almost 14,200 consent order applications in the Family Court (consent order applications are when the parties are able to reach agreement without requiring a court judgement)
  • about 25,600 interim order applications between the two courts (interim orders as orders made during a court case before the final trial hearing)
  • almost 20,500 final order applications across both courts following a final hearing (trial)
  • costs for families in the Family Court are estimated to be up to 4 times those of the Federal Circuit Court
  • matters in the Family Court require 45% more attendances by litigants than the Federal Circuit Court
  • days per trial in the Family Court are double that o fthe Federal Circuit Court
  • approximately 29% FCC matters and 42% of Family Court matters pending final orders are over 12 months old.
  • approximately 350 appeals are filed in the Appeal Division of the Family Court each year.

The Federal Circuit Court finalises over 85% of the final order family law matters.

“Despite the number of cases filed each year remaining relatively static over the past five years, the number of family law matters awaiting resolution has grown from 17,200 to 21,000 and the median time taken to reach trial has grown in both courts, from 10.8 months to 15.2 months in the Federal Circuit Court and from 11.5 months to 17 months in the Family Court.”

Christian Porter, Attorney General

The time it takes to reach trial is considerably longer in some court locations.  Mr Porter believes that the merger could see an extra 8,000 cases being resolved each year.  Some cases are taking three years or more to be resolved through the court.

In 2016-17, almost 1,200 families had their disputes transferred between the Family Court and the FCC. The waiting time to have a case transferred averaged 11.1 months in the FCC and 4.6 months in the Family Court. In both cases, litigants had to restart their proceedings using the procedures of the alternate court.

Australian Law Reform Commission Report

A current wider reaching review of the family law system, not just the courts, is currently being undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission is due to report back to the Government by March 2019.

The issues paper makes interesting reading for anyone wondering about the focus of the enquiry.

Media Release by the Attorney-General

The media release justifies the change as being to help families save time and costs in family law disputes.

“For too many families, disputes over property and custody of children, are being exacerbated by inefficiencies and growing delays in the court system caused by the overlapping jurisdiction and significant variations in the operational rules, processes and practices of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.”

“One key issue causing exacerbating delays for many families is the high number of cases transferred between the two courts. Almost 1200 families’ cases are transferred between the two courts each year, some after having been in court for more than 11 months. This means those families must start the whole court process again in the other court with completely different rules, procedures and processes. This and other inefficiencies mean highly skilled and trained judicial officers are being hampered from hearing and resolving more family law cases requiring resolution because of inefficient and often duplicated administration.”

Christian Porter, Attorney General

See the media release from the 30th May 2018 by the Attorney General here. 

Fact Sheet – Structural reform of the federal family courts

A fact sheet on the proposed changes is available on the Attorney Generals Website.

The Government expects to introduce legislation in the Spring Parliamentary sittings. Subject to passage of legislation, the FCFCA and the FLAD will commence operation on 1 January 2019.

Initially, the Federal Court and both divisions of the FCFCA will maintain their existing court rules. Following consultation with the judiciary, legal profession and other stakeholders, the new court will update its rules with a view to achieving consistency in forms, procedures, administrative matters and practice directions.

Transitional arrangements will be put in place for proceedings before the courts at the time of the commencement of the reforms to ensure that matters before the courts at that time are dealt with as effectively and efficiently as possible, and with the minimum of inconvenience and delay.

The structural reform of the federal court’s page is located here

No consideration of Alternative Dispute Resolution

There is no mention of Alternative Dispute Resolution as an alternative to people going to court. We hope that the law reform review will identify more creative alternatives to the proposal to merge the courts such as providing additional resources and support to educate separating couples about negotiation and the effects of conflict on their children and the many alternatives to litigation through family dispute resolution.

The focus of this reform is on improving the efficiency of a service that many families would be wiser to avoid altogether.

“This single new court, the FCFCA, will help Australian families resolve their disputes faster by improving the efficiency of the existing split family law system, reducing the backlog of matters before the family law courts, and driving faster, cheaper and more consistent dispute resolution,”

“This significant structural change is designed to dramatically increase the number of family law matters finalised each and every year, and reduce the backlog of unresolved cases on hand at any one time. The purpose of the reform is to ensure Australian families experience shorter waiting times, and a reduction in the potential for conflict caused by prolonged and acrimonious family disputes.”

“The FCFCA will have one single point of entry for all federal family law matters to provide a consistent pathway for Australian families needing to have their family law disputes dealt with by court proceedings. Families will have one new court with one set of new rules, procedures and practices designed to ensure that their disputes will be dealt with by the FCFCA in the most timely, informed and cost effective manner possible.”

Christian Porter, Attorney General

We hope that a wider view of the family law system will provide the Attorney General and other decision makers the opportunity to see the benefits of more families not using the family court at all. The best way to reduce the conflict caused by prolonged and acrimonious family disputes is to provide support for families to resolve their disputes themselves with the assistance of professionals rather than handing over their fate to the hands of an overworked family court judge.

Innovations in alternative dispute resolution such as those being offered by the not-for-profit, Interact Support established by Mediation Institute directors can make more of a difference for families that combining courts.  Interact Support has video mediation high conflict family dispute resolution for those couples who are turned away from standard government funded Family Dispute Resolution services as well as Mediator Facilitated Negotiation which is a lower cost method for people who are too high conflict to negotiate directly but unwilling or unable to pay the tens of thousands of dollars that lawyer negotiation typically costs.

Integral to the Interact Support High Conflict Family Dispute Resolution Services is the use of the New Ways for Families Course which teaches participants skills to help them to be better negotiators and about the genuine, long-term harm that exposure to family conflict causes children.

Many people are being advised by their lawyers to file for exemptions to Family Dispute Resolution and go straight to court for parenting matters and to bypass any discussion of family dispute resolution for property matters.

It is disappointing to see the assumption in the Attorney Generals statement that all of the cases in the Family Court are there because the families can’t resolve their issues without legal intervention in the form of going to Family Court.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that systems in place to assist those families who cannot resolve matters without legal intervention are as efficient as possible and that the system itself does not exacerbate the trauma of family breakup, especially for children.”

Christian Porter, Attorney General

A reduction of the 22,000 cases that go to family court would be easy to achieve simply by tightening up the exemption rules and raising the threshold for access to the court and requiring mandatory alternative dispute resolution for property matters.

Education for lawmakers, lawyers and separating families about the potential for people to be empowered to make their own decisions regarding how to care for their children and how to divide up their assets is needed as well.

It is ludicrous that government funded services offering 2 hours of “free” family dispute resolution are seen to fail if they can’t help a couple to sort out their issues in that time and the only other alternative is to spend 2 or more years fighting in court.

The customised, nuanced and highly individual agreements that can be reached in Family Dispute Resolution take a little more time to achieve than is generally provided by the publicly funded system and yet not enough people automatically think of engaging an independent Family Dispute Resolution practitioner to work with their family to achieve this outcome. Once agreement is reached getting enforceable consent orders is a relatively simple, administrative process.


Mediation Institute Webinars

Mediation Institute Students and Members can now see upcoming webinars on the Events tab on our website.

If you know the event you are looking for you can search or if you are not sure you can browse the calendar view or click on the View As button and view a list or day view.

We will progressively populate the event calendar with Mediation Institute events as well as conferences and other events of interest to our members.

What if I can’t make it to an event live?

Tutorials are recorded and uploaded to the Members area and a link is usually also added to the event in the calendar.

Events such as Supervision must be attended live as we may discuss sensitive issues that would be inappropriate to record.

CHC81115 Grad Dip FDR Flyer

CHC81115 Graduate Diploma of Family Dispute Resolution


The CHC81115 – Graduate Diploma of Family Dispute Resolution provides the skills and knowledge you need to facilitate mediation for couples and families as they go through separation and divorce. You will be helping them to reach parenting agreements, property settlements and to resolve their co-parent and wider family relationship issues.

This course provides in-depth learning on family violence and conflict, it’s effect on children and the family law environment for separating couples.

This qualification provides the training you will need to fulfill the role of family dispute resolution practitioner (FDRP). When accredited you will provide mediation services and interventions for families who need assistance with parenting agreements and property settlements as well as those who are experiencing high levels of relationship conflict and may be involved in the family law system.

Graduates accredit with the Attorney Generals Department and then go on to work independently, as a contractor or employee of a FDR Service.

The legal and ethical obligations of Family Dispute Resolution practitioners under the Family Law Act 1975 and the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008 are part of the course curriculum.

On completion of the qualification, graduates can apply for registration with the Attorney General’s Department to practice as FDRPs under the Family Law Act 1975. Once registered with The Attorney General’s Department, graduates can also apply for accreditation under the National Mediator Accreditation Standards (NMAS) by applying to Mediation Institute, a Recognised Mediator Accreditation Body (RMAB).

Mediation Institute will deliver this qualification in partnership with RTO Inspiritive.


This qualification is delivered fully online or with the option of blended learning, combining online learning with face to face sessions in Brisbane, Melbourne or Perth. A Supervised work placement is mandatory.


Approximately 50 weeks online learning and a 50-hour compulsory work placement which may commence as soon as you are assessed as competent in simulation for each skillset.

  • Point of Difference: This course duration is an estimate only. Students can complete the course at your own pace. We expect the majority to complete in significantly less than 50 weeks and you have up to 24 months to complete your studies if life gets in your way.

Employment Opportunities

Upon successful completion of this qualification, graduates may gain employment in Community Services Sector roles including:

  • Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP)
  • NMAS Accredited Mediator
  • Manager of an Alternative Dispute Resolution Service (with sufficient experience in management competencies)

Units of Competency

This qualification is made up of 10 units of competency (6 core units and 4 elective units)

Core Units

Code Unit Title
CHCFAM001 Operate in a family law environment
CHCDSP001 Facilitate dispute resolution in the family law context
CHCDSP002 Adhere to ethical standards in family dispute resolution
CHCDSP003 Support the safety of vulnerable parties in family dispute resolution
CHCDFV008 Manage responses to domestic and family violence in family work
CHCFAM002 Work with a child focused approach

Students can complete the core units only option in order to accredit with the Attorney Generals Department however the electives provide valuable additional training in working with high conflict families.

Elective Units

Code Unit
CHCPRP007 Work within a clinical supervision framework
CHCDFV012 Make safety plans with people who have been subjected to domestic and family violence
CHCDFV007 Work with users of violence to effect change
CHCFAM007 Assist clients to develop parenting arrangements

Entry Requirements

Entry to this qualification is open to individuals who have one or more of the following qualifications or experience:

Have an undergraduate degree or higher qualification in psychology, social work, law, conflict management, dispute resolution, family law mediation or equivalent

  • Have the mediation skill set from the Community Services (CHC) Training Package
  • Are a NMAS Accredited Mediator
  • Can provide documented evidence of previous experience in a dispute resolution environment, in a job role involving the self-directed application of knowledge, exercise of independent judgement and decision-making, and a range of technical and other skills.

Technological Requirements

This course is delivered online with a significant component of Video Role Play practice. To participate in this course you will need:

  • A computer or laptop with a reliable internet connection (sufficient for video meetings)
  • A fast and secure web browser
  • A web camera and head set – a web camera is standard on laptops and able to be plugged into a computer

If you have any doubts about your technology book in for a video meeting with our team to test your set up.

Contact the office on with a suggestion as to suitable meeting times.

Mandatory Work Placement

You have the opportunity of a minimum of 50 hours work placement with this qualification.

  • Point of Difference: Mediation Institute does not short change your learning by counting simulations or workshops as being client work.

With Mediation Institute you will have real work experience with real clients including taking enquiries, following up with real clients during and after family dispute resolution, undertaking safety planning, providing post separation parenting coaching (New Ways for Families Course Coaching) and of course, co-mediating in Family Dispute Resolution.

During your work placement, you will work with a minimum of five families with family dispute issues including the need for parenting plans, property settlements and the resolution of specific issues.

  • Point of Difference: All client work will be under the direct or indirect supervision of an accredited FDRP and will include Video Mediation and phone contact with clients.

Your work placement is part of the learning program and captures a range of evidence to support a decision of competency. Students and supervisors are provided with a comprehensive work placement guide and structured supervision program to support positive supervision and effective learning.

If any required evidence is not available in the workplace due to the mix of your clients following the work placement additional simulations or assessment may be required. The learning plan identifies the specific tasks you need to complete during your work placement.

Training Methods

  • Online learning – reading course material and supplementary material
  • Webinars and watching recorded webinars if you are unable to participate live
  • Access to the New Ways for Families – Parenting after Separation Course
  • Use of the Family DOORS risk screening tool
  • Incorporating content from the AVERT Family Violence program
  • Research projects as part of your supervision unit (elective)
  • Forum and web meeting discussions
  • Role plays and simulations (Video Role Plays and face to face if you attend a workshop)
  • On the job learning during your work placement

Assessment methods

  • Knowledge questions
  • Activities (Activities, Projects and Case Studies)
  • Role Play and Simulation Observations
  • Work place observations – third party supervisor reports
  • Co-assessment discussion between your workplace supervisor and course assessor (unless your supervisor is a qualified assessor)
  • Point of Difference: Students will be allocated as “clients” and taken through the whole FDR process from first contact to developing a parenting plan in simulation and then have the opportunity to do the same process with simulated “clients” as the FDR. Real, experiential simulations not unrealistic role plays.

As a guide we recommend that you allow a minimum of 8 hours a week for your studies – 3 hours for role plays and other interactive activities and 5 hours for coursework, reading and completing assessments.

Work Placement

  • Point of Different: Mediation Institute arranges work placement for students with Interact Support. and ongoing contract work with Interact Support is available once qualified.

Recognition of Prior Learning

You may be eligible for recognition of prior learning for this qualification. Please see our RPL Kit for more details.

NMAS Accreditation as a Mediator

Mediation Institute is a Recognised Mediator Accreditation Body (RMAB) under the Australian National Mediator Accreditation System (NMAS). This course meets the threshold training, education and assessment requirements as set out in the NMAS. those requirements.


If you need Mediation Institute’s assistance with your work placement the course fee is:

  • Full Qualification (10 Units) with Mediation Institute providing the work placement – $11,900
  • Core units only (6 units) with Mediation Institute providing the work placement – $8,900

If you DO NOT need Mediation Institute’s assistance with your work placement the course fee is:

  • Full Qualification (10 Units) without Mediation Institute providing the work placement – $8,900
  • Core units only (6 units) without Mediation Institute providing the work placement – $6,900

Enrollments and Further Information

We commenced enrollment in February 2018 and you will be able to join the course up until the end of November 2018. We take a two-month break from enrollments over December and January. Don’t miss out on joining the Class of 2018.

Conflict of Interest waiver

From time to time as a mediator, you may be in a position to make a decision about whether to proceed with mediation or FDR when there is a potential conflict of interest.

If there was a genuine conflict of interest you would be required by ethical standards to withdraw from the proposed mediation and hopefully help the client to find another provider.

If you are not sure if there is a genuine conflict of interest have a look at these resources.

Basically, if a prior relationship or some personal benefit that may flow to the mediator is likely to bias the process either for or against one of the participants then you have a conflict of interest.

As part of your Mediation Institute Membership, you can always give us a call for a quick 2nd opinion if you’re facing an ethical dilemma.

Believe me, it is much less work for us to have a chat than it is to investigate a complaint about professional conduct so we are happy to be a sounding board.

What do you do if there is something that raises a red flag but you genuinely believe that you will be able to facilitate the dispute resolution process without bias?

Waiver of a potential conflict of Interest form

You MUST disclose to the potential clients as soon as you become aware of the potential conflict of interest.

If you AND the clients believe that the potential conflict of interest is not going to be an issue you can proceed however you should document that agreement to proceed with a potential conflict of interest waiver form.

There isn’t a standard form provided by any authority however we have an example of the one used by Interact Support in the Mediation Institute Members course area.

Example Document for FDR – Click here to go to the file. 

You will have to log in to the member’s course to access the file

Other examples wanted

Would you like to contribute to our file resources?

You can. Just log in and go to the files area.

Navigate to Templates and Sample Documents => Conflict of Interest and then click on Upload (top right of the screen) you should be able to upload your example document to share with your fellow members.

If you are better at mediation than you are at technology just email your sample document through to us and we’ll upload it for you.




Family and Relationship Services Australia 2018 Conference

The Family and Relationships National Conference is scheduled for the 20th – 23rd November 2018.

Be the Change: Leaving no one behind

is this years theme.

The FRSA National Conference is one of the largest annual gatherings of practitioners, academics and policy makers working to support children, families and communities. This ‘not to be missed’ event will feature a number of highly acclaimed keynote presenters, as well as federal ministers and sector leaders with a focus on delivering the most effective services to children, families and young people.

To be held on the 20-23 November, 2018 at the Pullman Cairns International Hotel, this year’s theme Be the change: Leaving no one behind is a call to all family and relationship service providers to continue creating better futures for all Australian children, families and communities we serve in our delivery of evidence-informed, collaborative and innovative services.

The theme lends itself to a range of areas of exploration and discussion—from outcome measurement and reporting to FRSA’s current investment into seeking how our sector can take a more coordinated prevention and early intervention approach in its service delivery.

FRSA welcomes abstracts that reflect on this theme. In doing so, you are asked to select one of the five following streams (identified stages in the family lifecourse):

  1. The first 1000 days
    Topics can include the preconception period (preconception to birth), the birth of a child, impact on family relationships and transitions into parenting.
  2. Key transition points in the schooling years
    Topics can include school readiness, transitions into and across primary and secondary schools/school years, young people with significant caring responsibilities and transitioning out of school into training, tertiary education or employment.
  3. Partnering and cohabitation
    Topics can include relationship formation, relationship and marriage counselling and developing and maintaining respectful and safe relationships.
  4. Relationship breakdown and re-partnering
    Topics can include family/domestic violence, family legal services, family dispute resolution, men’s behavioural change programs, parenting after separation, sole-parenting, sustaining the best interests and wellbeing of children and the changing nature of family dynamics experienced through reporting.
  5. Ageing
    Topics can include grandparents as primary care-giver of children, elder abuse and changing family structures as people stay at home for longer.

As well as selecting one of these streams, your abstract may also focus on sub-themes of importance to our sector, including:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services;
  • Services for people of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds
  • Family Violence;
  • Technology; and/or
  • Workforce Capacity Building.

Conference Start Date








About FRSA

As the national peak body for family and relationship services, Family and Relationship Services Australia (FRSA) is committed to strong policy engagement.

They have a critical leadership role in representing over 180 FRSA Member organisations and supporting the needs and interests of this strong, diverse and adaptable membership and the children, families and communities they serve. These Member organisations provide family and community services to approximately 400,000 clients from 1,300 outlets across Australia each year amidst an ever-changing fiscal and social landscape.

FRSA was established in July 2007 following the decision to a single representative structure. It was identified that the Australian community would benefit from a single, national peak body that would support organisations that provide family and relationship services. Please read more about FRSA history.

From our establishment in 2007 to today, we have been an active and effective conduit for information flow between their Members (and other stakeholders) and the Australian Government.

FRSA Vision


Key Dates

Call for Abstracts close –
14 May 2018 – notify authors early June. 

Open Early Bird Registration – Registration
7 May 2018

Group Discounts – a discount is available for bulk registrations so if you are considering attending get in touch with Mediation Institute and we’ll put together a list to see if we can get a bulk discount for you.  You have until September for the early bird rates so let us know between now and then. 

Early Bird Registration close
30 September, 2018

Standard Registration open
1 October, 2018

Conference Starts
20 November 2018

Expression of Interest for Group Discount

14 + 4 =

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