Last week was a little shorter work week as I attended the Newcastle Family Law Pathway Network (FLPN) annual conference.
This year the conference was entitled "Falling Through the Cracks" and was on the very important juncture between Family Law, the Children's Court and Child Protective Services.
The conference was very well attended - bringing together legal practitioners, counsellors, and representatives from a large variety of government and non-government services.
And we were honoured by speakers including Judges from the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court as well as an Independent Children's Lawyer, the assisting director of the Department of Family and Community Services as well as representatives of the local counselling and mediation providers.
One of the main topics for consideration was how to share information between the various organisations - for example, if a child comes before the Family Law Court's how best (and most efficiently) can information that the Department (perhaps better known as DOCS) might have be given to the Court. This may seem like a simple issue when faced with such serious issues but there are very complicated matters such as privacy to be taken into account. For example, how can the details of a mandatory reporter (such as a doctor, teacher etc) be kept private to protect their safety (threats of harm are made towards mandatory reports unfortunately) - how can the Department's resources handle this further review work?
Having senior representatives from the Court and the Department at the conference was a chance to discuss the competing issues and brain-storm genuine ideas to help resolve these matters.
What I found most inspiring from the conference was the passion and dedication that each of the speakers have for family law and for trying to do the very best they can to help the people - in particular the children - who they work for and with.
* The FLPN supports a coordinated family law service system in the Newcastle area. It provides information sharing and networking events such as the annual conference as well as referral information for government and non-government services.