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Greater Melbourne Network Bulletin

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The Family Law Amendment Act 2023 (Act No. 87 of 2023) received Royal Assent on 6 November 2023. Most of the changes to the law will apply from 6 May 2024. The Bill previously passed the Senate, with amendments, on 19 October 2023. The House of Representatives agreed to the Senate amendments on 19 October 2023. Find out more about the passage of the Bill, including the text of the Bill, the amendments, the explanatory memorandums, and all speeches.

The Family Law Amendment Bill 2023 will ensure the best interests of children are at the centre of all parenting decisions made inside or outside the courtroom and will make the system easier to navigate.

Significantly, the amendments passed repealed the presumption of ‘equal shared parental responsibility’ provisions in the Family Law Act 1975. In 2017, a bipartisan parliamentary committee found that these provisions were confusing, that they failed to prioritise the safety of children and that they were being improperly applied in a way that put children at risk. These findings are consistent with the overwhelming consensus of family law experts.

Under the new laws, parenting decisions will have to be based solely on what is in the best interests of the child.

The new laws also include:

  • requiring Independent Children’s Lawyers to meet directly with children;

  • greater powers to protect parties and children from harmful effects of protracted and adversarial litigation;

  • a definition of ‘member of the family’ in the Family Law Act that is inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of family and kinship;

  • simplified compliance and enforcement provisions for child-related orders;

  • powers to enable government to regulate family report writers;

  • ensuring that children’s voices are heard more easily in matters under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The Royal Commission has made 222 recommendations on how to improve laws, policies, structures, and practices to ensure a more inclusive and just society that supports the independence of people with disability and their right to live free from violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

The Final Report consists of 12 Volumes plus an additional introductory volume, which includes the Chair’s foreword, our vision for an inclusive Australia, an executive summary, and the full list of recommendations. All volumes of the Final Report are available in various accessible formats. Click on a volume below to view and download these formats. Printed copies of the Final Report can be ordered from our Order resources page.

The Royal Commission has also published A brief Guide to the Final Report. This guide explains how information is organised in the Final report. It is for a broad audience including people with disability, their families and carers, other members of the Australian community, disability advocates, service providers and people looking to quickly find the information they need.

The Victorian Family Law Pathways Network (VFLPN) is currently updating its membership information and we need your support to make sure we have the most accurate and up to date information. Please contact us to update your membership details!

By providing us with your up-to-date information, you will receive information about professional development opportunities and early notification of upcoming events.

Vaping, or electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use, by adolescents and young people has increased rapidly in the last decade. Evidence indicates that vaping has negative impacts on physical health and mental health for people who use e-cigarettes. Consequently, it is of increasing concern for practitioners and other professionals who work with adolescents.

This paper provides an overview of what e-cigarettes are and the prevalence of vaping among adolescents in Australia. It also describes findings from a review of the research evidence aimed at understanding the relationship between vaping and adolescent mental health and wellbeing. Research capturing adolescents’ views and attitudes on vaping is outlined and some implications for practice are provided.

Key messages

  • Rates of vaping (e-cigarette use) among adolescents are rising in Australia and internationally.

  • Vaping is associated with mental health challenges among adolescents, including depressive symptoms, anxiety, perceived stress, and suicide-related behaviours.

  • Risk factors for vaping include the use of other tobacco products, depressive symptoms, suicide-related behaviours, friends’ positive attitudes towards vaping and parental smoking.

  • Families, practitioners, and educators need greater awareness of and education about the risks and harms of adolescent vaping.

  • Practitioners can work to manage the potential risks of vaping by routinely assessing young clients and their families for e-cigarette use.

The Australian Government has released the initial report of the First Nations Digital Inclusion Advisory Group (FNDIAG) that outlines positive steps towards narrowing the digital divide for First Nations Australians. The report recommends practical measures to support greater digital inclusion in line with Target 17 in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. It aims to ensure First Nations people have access to information and services that enable participation in decision-making on matters that affect their own lives. Digital inclusion is a deeply complex issue, with access, affordability and digital ability all playing a role in the extent to which First Nations people and communities are digitally included. Digital inclusion enables a range of benefits, including supporting economic participation, access to government services, social connectedness, and enjoyment of entertainment and leisure activities. Recognising this, the report provides a basis for the Australian Government’s continued investment and collaboration with First Nations people around three key issues:

  • the delivery of targeted measures to improve access to connectivity, making sure it is affordable and fit for purpose, and that First Nations people are aware of their connectivity options and have the digital skills they need to be safe online.

  • improving the national collection and use of data so that we can better assess the impact of measures delivered in community, as well as broader progress towards Target 17; and

  • ensuring genuine engagement and collaboration with First Nations people and communities, and supporting their access to government programs and opportunities.

Each year many parents separate or get a divorce. Separating parents often worry about the impacts on their children. But most children adapt well with the support of their parent/s, family and community.

If you can talk to your child about what’s going on and be positive about changes related to separation and divorce, it helps them to understand and reduces their worries. It’s also important to take care of yourself at this time, because how you feel about and cope with the separation can impact on your parenting, your relationship with your child and, in turn, your child’s wellbeing.

These resources are for parents who are navigating separation or who have separated or divorced. They aim to help you understand children’s experiences and reactions and offer ways you can lessen the impacts of separation on your child and support their mental health and wellbeing.

These resources were developed with the guidance of separated parents, health professionals, and research into the wellbeing of children whose parents have separated.

From 30 October 2023 a matter will be eligible to be designated a Priority Property Pool Case (PPP Case) where:

  • the Initiating Application seeks only financial relief (i.e. alteration of property interests and/or spouse maintenance only); and

  • involves either:

  • an asset pool with a total value of up to $550,000 (excluding superannuation) or

  • an asset pool which has a value greater than $550,000 (excluding superannuation) but the Court, in its discretion, designates the matter as a PPP Case having regard to relevant features including family violence, limited complexity and/or risk of disproportionate costs or delay.

 Practitioners are expected to be familiar with these criteria and to discuss them with parties prior to preparing material for filing. The timely resolution of these cases enhances outcomes for families while reducing the risks to parties including as a result of incurring disproportionate costs or unnecessary delay associated with non-compliance and the following flow chart illustrates the case management approach for PPP Cases.

Intimate partner violence is a significant violation of the rights and safety of young people and without early intervention, can have lifelong impacts for victim-survivors and perpetrators (Exner-Cortens, 2014). Much of the research to date has focused on identifying risk factors that increase the likelihood of perpetration and/or victimisation among young people; for example, exposure to partner violence in one’s family of origin (Capaldi, Low, Tiberio, & Shortt, 2019; Kaufman-Parks, DeMaris, Giordano, Manning, & Longmore, 2018; Louis & Reyes, 2023). Recently, greater attention has been given to protective factors that reduce the likelihood of intimate partner violence, such as supportive relationships with peers and parents (Hébert et al., 2019).

Peers and parents can serve as key sources of informal support in the context of intimate partner violence victimisation (Greenman & Matsuda, 2016). They can provide emotional support, assist with safety planning, offer information, resources or advocacy and encourage seeking formal help from purpose-built organisations (Sylaska & Edwards, 2014). The support of peers and parents is crucial to empowering victim-survivors to seek help and take steps towards safety and healing. Therefore, when addressing the issues of intimate partner violence and abuse among Australian adolescents, it is crucial that we further understand the potentially protective role of peers and parents.

Join one of e-Safety Commissioner free webinars for parents and carers in 2024.

The live webinars will give parents and carers the knowledge, skills, and tools to support their children to have safe online experiences.

The topics to be covered are:

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