Professionals from across the WA family law sector gathered at the University Club of WA on May 25 for ‘Exploring solutions to complex problems: Responding to alcohol and other drugs in the family law system’, WA Family Law Pathways Network’s annual conference. A crowd of more than 250 delegates filled the auditorium as WAFLPN Chair and MC for the day, Kate Jeffries, kicked off proceedings. Following a beautiful Welcome to Country from Denice Kickett and Nigel Wilkes, Assistant Police Commissioner Michelle Fyfe took the stage to present the official opening. Ms Fyfe’s opening presentation was insightful and inform ative, and put the theme of the conference in context with a look at how WA Police act as the frontline response to alcohol and other drugs.
Following Ms Fyfe’s presentation it was time for our keynote address from the National Drug Research Institute’s Dr Nicole Lee. Dr Lee’s presentation helped to contextualise some of the data we hear about drug use in the media, and explained the way that methamphetamine affects the neurological functions of the user.
Soon it was time for morning tea, and the delegates spilled out to enjoy the sunshine, cakes and a cup of coffee in the University Club courtyard.
When the delegates returned to the auditorium it was to hear a co-presentation from Magistrate Calverley of the Family Court of WA and Magistrate Horrigan of the Children’s Court of WA on how they manage drugs and alcohol as a cross-jurisdictional issue. An insightful presentation leading to a fiery Q&A, this session got the crowd’s blood moving. Next to take the stage was Gary Kirby, Director of Prevention Services at the Mental Health Commission, who took the audience through issues around comorbidity on a local level.
The fabulous weather prevailed and delegates were able to enjoy a delicious lunch on the lawn, networking with colleagues and sharing insights from the conference so far.
The lunch hour flew by, and soon it was time for delegates to head to their elected breakout sessions. In the theatre, MC Kate Jeffries hosted a panel of local drug and alcohol service providers including Christine Ockenfels, Roslyn Maloney, Tom Hopkins and Daniel Morrison. Delegates also packed in to see Professor Daniel Fatovich present on recreational drugs in the emergency department and Heather Jacobson’s presentation on family inclusive practice in the seminar rooms.
Following a cup of tea and a snack, the delegates returned to the auditorium for the final session of the day. Facilitated by Jill Rundle, an expert panel including Daniel Morrison, Michele Cohen, Richard Bannerman, Nicole Lee and Linda Jackson discussed a case scenario, which followed the story of a young family with drug and alcohol issues as it navigated the family law system.
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.