WAFPN was pleased to announce another successful annual conference in2016. More than 250 delegates from across the WA family law sector filled the stunning University of WA Club in Crawley on May 26 for ‘Are you hearing me? Listening to the voice of the child in the family law system’.
Featuring exhibitions from the WAFPN Kiosk, Anglicare, Centrecare, Citizens Advice Bureau, Communicare, Relationships Australia, Legal Aid, FLPA and the Aboriginal Family Legal Services, delegates enjoyed a coffee in the morning, helping themselves to ample freebies from the exhibition stands.
MC Stephen Clarke kicked off proceedings, and once again we were delighted to have the Welcome to Country delivered by the inspiring young Montanna and Savanna, a highlight for many delegates, and our very first ‘voice of the child’ for the day.
The opening address was delivered by His Honour, Justice Simon Moncrieff, and was followed by a short video prepared by the young people of Cafcass UK’s Family Justice Young People’s Board.
Justice Moncrieff returned to the stage and gave an interesting and in depth presentation, with useful insight into how a family court judge can listen to the voice of the child in family law proceedings.
Following an interesting Q&A session with Justice Moncrieff, it was time for morning tea, and with the weather fining up, delegates spilled out onto the terrace and enjoyed a hot coffee and some delicious mini muffins.
Returning to the theatre, it was time to hear from Commissioner of Children and Young People Colin Pettit. The Commissioner gave excellent real life examples of children’s voices that were much appreciated by the audience.
It was then time for a change of pace, as up next was Sydney-based psychiatrist and single expert witness Dr Peter Krabman. Dr Krabman delivered a witty and captivating presentation, providing useful knowledge for all in the room, particularly the counsellors.
With the morning already behind us it was time to enjoy a delicious lunch on the terrace, chat and network with old colleagues and new friends.
The first session for the afternoon was delivered by Anglicare’s Tunya Petridis, featuring a special guest. Mikayla Baker is a 17 year old with lived experience of FDV and as a child involved in the family court. Mikayla stunned the audience with her eloquent and frank appraisal of the family system, and her beautiful analogy of being “forced to eat tomatoes” will be memorable for many of us.
Tunya gave some excellent examples of the voices of children she has heard in her work and challenged us in the system to think about how we listen to and respect the voice of the child.
It was then time to head to the breakout sessions, where delegates could choose to hear another presentation from Dr Krabman, or a presentation from the Family Court Counselling and Consultancy Services, or a presentation from a panel of local FDRPs. While this session was a little rushed for time, delegates appreciated having three great sessions to choose from, with many saying they found it hard to choose!
After an afternoon tea break featuring some delicious homemade biscuits, it was time to return to the theatre for the final session. As the delegates entered the theatre they were told they would need their smart phones – it was time to get involved with an interactive hypothetical! MC Stephen Clarke led the delegates through a scenario where they had the opportunity to vote on how they thought the situation should be managed. An expert panel featuring Justice Moncrieff, Lynette Hill (ADR, Legal Aid), Kevin Hanavan (Family Court Counselling and Consultancy Service), Nicole Leggett (CPFS) and Katelyn Betti (FDRP, Relationships Australia) were able to respond to the results.
Despite a few technical difficulties, the crowd was energised and we had the opportunity to apply what we had learnt throughout the day, hear from other experts in the room and share knowledge.
With the proceedings at a close, a few members of the network and steering committee ended the day by sharing a drink on the terrace.