Bottom Lines and Non Negotiable’s in Family Group Conferencing

Bottom Lines and Non Negotiable’s in Family Group Conferencing

What is a “Bottom Line” in Family Group Conferencing?

When working as a facilitator in Family Group Conferencing you will often hear the term “bottom Lines”.

Bottom Lines can also be called ‘The Not Negotables’. 

These are the points that cannot be moved or changed and must be clearly understood by all parties involved in a Family Group Conference before it commences.

The not negotiables are generally set by the child protection or other authorities working with the family in consultation with the Family Group Conference facilitator.

Bottom Lines are a more family friendly term then ‘Not Negotiable. If the purpose of Family Group Conferencing is to engage the family in taking an active role in the safety and well-being of a child or young person using language like ‘Not Negotiable’ as it tends to confirm suspicions that those setting them are keeping a firm hold on the power in the situation.

Families involved within Child Protection often already feel powerless and like they have no decision making options, so Bottom Lines has been a term developed to demonstrate where the boundary is for making decisions.

Why have bottom lines?

Bottom Lines help the Family clearly understand what decisions they can and cannot be part of making and when they do make decisions what needs to be considered. 

It is the Facilitators role to ensure all parties, Family, Social Workers, Case Workers and everyone involved understand what the ‘Bottom Lines’ are.

They need to make sure that they are clear enough and cover the child protection or other safety concerns. 

It is also the Facilitators role to ensure that those setting the bottom lines allow enough scope for the family to have meaningful input into decision making.

If the bottom lines are too restrictive the family will not actually have any power to make decisions and the FGC process may not be an appropriate one in the circumstance.

Generally it is a matter of educating the case worker about strengths based practice and family decision making in order to reduce the bottom lines to those that actually relate to the well-being of the child or other family member at the centre of the case.

Who can set the bottom lines?

The bottom lines are generally set by the referring agencies and not just child protection. Any referrer can set bottom lines which have to be agreed to for the family group conference to go ahead.

Bottom lines in FGC


New learning technologies

eLearning provides us with new learning technologies that give us unprecedented opportunities to innovate the way we train and support people and where they are when we do that.

Read More »
Recognition of Prior Learning

Recognition of Prior Learning

Prior Learning Assessment or Recognition of Prior Leaning is an assessment only process to help people who have workplace experience and formal and informal training to gain recognised qualifications.

Read More »
education finance
Family Dispute Resolution

Education Finance

Education Finance allows for an investment in your future by acquiring qualifications that lead to improved career opportunities.

Read More »

What makes a “good” bottom line?

This checklist might help to review the bottom line not negotiables.

  1. are they clear and well stated and not left open for interpretation?
  2. do they clarify what the family can make plans about and what they can’t?
  3. does your preparation process ensure that all key parties have agreed to the bottom line issues?
  4.  do the bottom lines allow the family enough scope to make decisions?
  5. Lastly and most importantly – do they consider the children’s needs?

What about Guiding Questions?

Guiding questions provide a way for all child protection concerns and needs to be addressed. They can be used to support the bottom lines being respected or as an alternative to them.

They should be developed before the FGC by the facilitator after their discussion with the case worker and the family members about what is the most important decisions that need to be made.

The questions will guide the development of the family plan.

Families will answer these questions during the family planning time.

Guidelines for Guiding Questions

When you are developing your list of guiding questions you should keep these points in mind:

  • Do not use jargon or acronyms – use full words that family members will be able to understand
  • Use family friendly language – think about how you would receive the question if you were a family member.
  • Use strength based and future focused language – that means no blame or assumption of inability. Focus family members on what their strengths are and what they can do. Focus them on what the practical actions are that they can take.
  • Do not have embedded assumptions – ask yourself “what would have to be true for this question to make sense?” that can often identify unconscious bias or assumptions about the family.
  • Make them very clear – be very clear and specific so that the family doesn’t waste time arguing about what the question means or go off on a tangent that will not address the critical needs of the person the conference is focused on.
  • Use family members names where relevant rather than “the child” or the “mother” the “father” and so on. They know who they are so use their names.
  • Cover the bottom lines by making sure that the guiding questions cover the bottom lines and child protection concerns.
  • Be collaborative in creating the guiding questions. Talk about them in your discussions with the referring case worker and the family so that they have a say in the guiding questions.
  • Provide the guiding questions to the case worker and the family prior to the conference so they can be as prepared as they can be during the conference. Make sure this happens as a priority not as a quick email the night before to tick off the obligation.
Upcoming Events
Peer Supervision
Tue 29

Day Session January 2019 Online Peer Group Supervision

29 January @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm AEDT
Webinar - Understanding Facilitative Mediation
Feb 04

Understanding Facilitative Mediation

4 February @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm AEST
Practice Development Mastermind
Feb 05

Looking for Training or Member Support for Family Group Conferencing?

Mediation Institute provides public and in-house training in Family Group Conferencing around Australia.

We also provide membership based support for Family Group Conference Facilitators.


Marketing: Key Word Research

Marketing: Key Word Research

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the process of researching and coming up with a list of words and phrases (keyphrases) that are relevant to your business. The intention of coming up with this list is to create content on your website that will attract clients who are looking for what you have to offer.

This article is not likely to be relevant to you if you are not interested in marketing a business or professional practice and you don’t have a website.

If you do have a website then you should understand keywords and make sure that your content is optimised so that potential clients can find you when they search for information about the topics that you can help them with.

Mediation Institute is not a marketing agency and we are by no means Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) experts. We tend to get our information from Yoast SEO who have a free plug in for WordPress that helps a lot with optimising your website content and a very, very comprehensive blog.

Yoast Articles

We thought we would use this post for members to share links to some of the helpful articles we’ve found.

Other Resources

We will update this article with other resources as we come across them to help build a knowledge base on key words and content marketing to assist members who are managing their own websites.


Dispute Resolution Job Opportunities

Mediators Resume

Do you have a Mediators Resume? This will be of interest for any of our members who are looking for a job, looking for private

Read More »
Upcoming Events
Peer Supervision
Tue 29

Day Session January 2019 Online Peer Group Supervision

29 January @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm AEDT
Webinar - Understanding Facilitative Mediation
Feb 04

Understanding Facilitative Mediation

4 February @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm AEST
Practice Development Mastermind
Feb 05

Marketing Calendar for 2019

Marketing Calendar for 2019

Have you started your Marketing Calendar for 2019?

This post is for members who are running or planning to run a professional practice in 2019.

If you are then I would suggest that one of your strategies for 2019 is to plan your marketing rather than leave it as something you do when you have time or you remember.

The easiest way to do this is to create a marketing calendar. For me that means printing off a monthly calendar and using that as my reminder of what I have to do.

You may prefer to use an online calendar but if you do I would suggest that you create a specific calendar for this purpose rather than mix it in with all of your other appointments and to do’s.

What goes on my Marketing Calendar?

That depends on you.

Start, as always, with your goal for your business sales.

What are your services and products do you have to sell?

You may have one very specific niche or process you work with or you may have several.

Once you have identified that then you can begin to put together a plan for the year.

Step 1: Establish your high level marketing goal for the year

Step 2: Do a review of your marketing channels

Step 3: Start building your Marketing Calendar

Make a list of your websites and social media outlets

If you haven’t already done so make a list – with hyperlinks to your website and all of your social media outlets. 

You’ll want this in a word or pdf document so you can click on the links to get to the various websites rather than just printed off.

Some of you may have a simple list of websites and social media sites:

  • Website
  • Facebook Page
  • LinkedIn Page
  • LinkedIn Profile
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • Twitter

and so on.

For others it may be a bit more complicated, like mine, where I have multiple business pages to manage. Definitely worth making sure you are keeping them all up to date.

Now is a great time to review to see if there are any that you can merge or link in some way to make managing them easier.

There are also social media management software tools that can help with that such as Hootsuite or Monday that will cost you a bit each month to keep everything in the one place.

There are plenty of review posts to help you choose. Google Social Media Management Tools.

Let us know through the comments what tool you are using and how you would rate it if you are using one.

No website?

If you are starting out in business don’t worry if you don’t have your own website as yet.

The way that Facebook Pages and LinkedIn are progressing there is a lot you can do for free there. 

Just remember if you online presence is fully using social media you are the same as a busker. 

street performerIt doesn’t cost you anything to set up and you can go where the people are.

But remember that you are competing with all the other buskers out there for attention and you don’t own and control the piece of the internet your business communicates from.

Not having your own website means you are vulnerable to changes that the big social media players make so it makes sense to plan to have a website longer term.

In the short term it is important to get out there to see who likes your music.


Where do I get a Marketing Calendar?

If you are happy to be old school with your Marketing Calendar you could do what I did.
I just looked for a site with free downloadable calendars and picked one I liked on

How do I use it?

Print it off for the full year and put it in a folder close to your computer so you can grab it and review it often.
1. Go to one of the sites that identify holidays and special days like
2. Mark off any:
  • Public Holidays
  • Holidays you’ve got planned
  • School Terms or other interruptions to normal business. This might be time will be wanting to spend extra time with your family but it will also be disrupted time for your clients if they have school aged children.
3. You might also find it interesting to check out the United Nations Internationals Days Calendar for days or weeks relevant to you.
Or google for one of the wackier holidays sites for something a bit more left field.
4. Now start planning for the year but starting with January and possibly February. 
Schedule a regular release of information that your social media followers will be able to access to learn more about you, your area of expertise and how they can engage you to provide your services to them. 
General Information

Graduate Services

Graduate Services Mediation Institute is keen to foster innovation and best practice in its graduates and wishes to support them in their Mediation Career To

Read More »

What is Information Marketing and why should I do it?

Information Marketing is an approach that is best used for specialist services where your product or service is not well known or you don’t want to be seen as a “white rice” commodity type supplier.

The dispute resolution industry in Australia is still not a mature market. Most people you speak with about Mediation or Family Dispute Resolution are not knowledgeable about the services that professional dispute resolution practitioners provide.

That means that there a huge opportunity for you, even if you are relatively new to the industry.

Do a bit of google research to find out what people are asking and then provide the answers tailored to how you can help.

Upcoming Events
Peer Supervision
Tue 29

Day Session January 2019 Online Peer Group Supervision

29 January @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm AEDT
Webinar - Understanding Facilitative Mediation
Feb 04

Understanding Facilitative Mediation

4 February @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm AEST
Practice Development Mastermind
Feb 05

Google Analytics

If you do have a website then you should be making use of Google Analytics to see who is visiting, what they are enjoying and so much more.

Get started with Google Analytics or sign in to have a look at how your website performed last year.



Visual Mediation

Visual Mediation

What is Visual Mediation?

Visual Mediation is an approach to mediation making use of visual communication strategies to improve understanding and engagement by clients.

Mediation Institute has been sharing the work of Lisa Aurora starting with a webinar called “Let’s get Visual” where Lisa shared with us her methodology.

Click on this link to watch the Let’s Get Visual video recording of the discussion we had about Visual Mediation.

Recent Webinar Recording

In December 2018 Lisa did another webinar in the small hours of the morning for us in Australia but you can watch the recording of that webinar.

In the webinar Lisa talks about:

  • The problem that visual communication solves for parties in mediation
  • 3 ways that visual communication can be applied to your process
  • Why visual communication is so powerful for parties in resolving issues and disputes
  • What a first attempt to work visually is like
  • Why you can work visually even if you believe you can’t draw

Visual Mediation

Visual Mediation is a general term used for an approach to mediation that makes the process more visual or uses graphical tools to help participants.

Read More »

Free Resources on Visual Mediation

Visit Lisa’s website for more information and free resources including:

  • The Visual Mediation Agenda – a visual mediation agenda template and guide that you can download for free
  • A free 3 part training series –  which helps with steps to take, and avoid, when starting out with visual mediation
  • A 5 Step blueprint: for how to take advantage of visual communication in your professional practice.

Click to visit Lisa’s Free Resources Page

Upcoming Events
Peer Supervision
Tue 29

Day Session January 2019 Online Peer Group Supervision

29 January @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm AEDT

Report on Child Protection in Australia

Report on Child Protection in Australia

What the report is about

The report on Child Protection in Australia explores the situation in the 2016 – 2017 time period. This report is the 21st edition of this comprehensive report.

It includes detailed statistical information about Australian state and territory child protection and support services and identifies some of the shared characteristics of children who are receiving child protection services.

Child protection is a responsibility of each state and territory for the children in their areas. The role of statutory child protection bodies is to assist vulnerable children who have harmed or are at risk of harm due to abuse, neglect or other cause of harm or who’s parents are no longer able to provide adequate care or protection for them.

Key Findings

 There are a number of key findings that will be of interest to anyone who is concerned about the well being of young people in our country.

Of these 379,459 notifications 177,056 (47%) were assessed as requiring further investigation while the rest were dealt with by other means such as referral to a support service. 

This data is not consistent around Australia due to the way different jurisdictions collect and record data and treat notifications due to different state and territory legislation and organisations.

40% of the notifications came from either police (21%) or schools (19%)

In 2016 – 2017 168,352 children had an investigation, care and protection order and/or were placed in out of home care.

This is equal to 1 in every 32 children in Australia.

74% of these children were repeat clients who had come to the attention of child protection more than once.

These numbers are not reports. They relate only to the number of reported concerns that result in a child protection agency recording a Child Protection Notification.

In 2016 – 2017 49,160 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children received child protection services, a rate of 164.3 per 1,000 children, compared with 22.3 per 1,000 for non-Indigenous children.

Indigenous children were 7 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to have received child protection services.

The rate of increase in the number of children per 1,000 has increased for all children since the 2012-13 benchmark year. The increase was from 18.5 to 22.3 for non-indigenous children and 126.9 to 164.9 per 1,000 for indigenous children.

The report identifies some of the research into why this is likely to be the case.

It appears that children in Very Remote areas are 4 times as likely as those in Major Cities to be the subject of a substantiation.

Substantiation means that there is considered to be sufficient reason, after an investigation, to believe that the child has been or is likely to be abused, neglected or harmed.

There has been a continued increase in rates of interventions. The report compares rates of key interventions between 2012 – 2013 and 2016 – 2017.

  • There was an increase in the rate of reports that were substantiated from 8.2 to 9.9 per 1,000
  • There was an increase in the number of children on Care and Protection Orders from 8.2 to 9.9 per 1,000
  • There was an increase in out-of-home care from 7.7 to 8.7 per 1,000

In 2016-2107 the national recurrent expenditure on child protection and out-of-home care services were $4.3 billion, a real increase of 8% from 2015 – 2016.

 Of the substantiated reports of abuse or neglect reported a “primary” or most severe in the sort term type of abuse or neglect was recorded.

Nationally, emotional abuse was the most common primary type of abuse or neglect substantiated for children (48%), followed by neglect (24%), physical abuse (16%), and sexual abuse (12%). However, there was some variation between jurisdictions (Figure 3.3).


 Of the substantiated reports of abuse or neglect socio-economics appears to play a role. Read the report


About 32,600 children have been in out of home care for 2 years or more.

62% were wards of the state with 24% living with a carer who had long term legal responsibility for them.

Sad child

Preventative Early Intervention Strategies

As mediators we are most interested in what the report says about early intervention. The best way to manage child protection is to remove the risks to them by supporting families to be functional and supportive of their children.

The report identifies that in August 2017 the Community Services Ministers from the federal, state and territory governments agreed on two key focus areas.

  1.  To provide stability for children in child protection
  2. To ensure that the right services are available to prevent children entering child protection.

We hope that means work towards eliminating the need for child protection although the report identifies only initiatives that focus on strategies to make out of home care more stable. For example removing legal rights from parents and placing them with the state or long term care givers.

Raw Data on Children Receiving Child Protection Services

The report has much more detailed information and explantation of what the categories mean and how they are counted.

See the report for more information about the data.

Positive SSL