On 31 May 2018, approximately 250 professionals from across the WA family law sector gathered at the University Club of Western Australia for the WAFLPN Annual Conference. This year’s theme was Supporting Positive Childhood Attachment, a topic suggested by multiple WAFLPN members following the 2017 conference.
The day began with an inspiring Welcome to Country by Nigel Wilkes accompanied by his wife Alice Kearing. Nigel and Alice told personal stories to illustrate the importance of coming together as a group to solve complex problems in the community, and iterated their pride in welcoming attendees to the conference for this purpose. Nigel finished by wowing the audience with an incredible digeridoo performance.
It was then time for the official opening of the conference, presented by The Honourable Jane Crisford, who was formerly a judge at the Family Court of WA and is now Chair of Legal Aid WA. Her Honour charmed delegates with stories of her work in the Kimberly and how that changed her views on attachment, particularly in Aboriginal families.
The first keynote presentation came from Keenan Mundine of the Inside Out Aboriginal Justice Consultancy, who told his incredibly moving story of losing both his parents as a child, moving from a foster home to the streets of Redfern, to prison, all in search of familial attachment. Keenan’s story was heartbreaking and uplifting, and by the time the conference broke for morning tea, there wasn’t a dry eye in the auditorium.
After enjoying a short break with muffins and hot coffee, delegates returned to the auditorium for the second keynote presentation by Dr Adah Sachs of the Bowlby Centre UK. Dr Sachs presented familiar concepts of attachment in a new and captivating way, contextualising the information using compelling stories from her practice. Dr Sachs presented fresh and innovative research on attachment, currently being progressed by herself and her peers, and even the veteran psychologists in the room learned a few new tricks!
Too soon for the delegates, who were bursting with questions for Dr Sachs, it was time to break for lunch. The rain was coming down heavily outside and delegates warmed themselves with some hearty hot food and delicious chocolate mousse.
After lunch the group split for the afternoon breakout sessions. In the auditorium, Kevin Hanavan of the Family Court of WA presented an entertaining session on fathering and attachment. In Seminar Room One, Lesley Bracebridge and Yuyun Tan of Anglicare WA and Linda Jackson of Relationships Australia WA teamed up to present an insightful talk on attachment in the context of supervised contact centres. Over in Seminar Room Two, Laura Nigro of Department of Communities delivered a fast-paced and engaging presentation on attachment in a multicultural context.
After a quick break for coffee and some biscuits, delegates returned to the main auditorium for the final session, welcoming Dr Sachs back to the stage for reflection on the day. Dr Sachs, was enamoured of Kevin Hanavan’s prior presentation, invited him to join her for this final session. It was an interactive and engaging session with spirited conversation flowing between the audience, Dr Sachs and Kevin Hanavan.
At the close of the day, conference MC and Chair of WAFLPN, Kate Jeffries, lead a mural reflection with artist Cameron Jones. Throughout the day to the left of stage, Cameron had been working on a developing mural based on the key topics of discussion raised throughout the day. The finished piece featured a small caricature of each speaker and a summary of their key points. Kate and Cameron talked through each session of the day, highlighting discussions and learning from each.
Finally, Kate closed the conference with thanks to the WAFLPN Steering Committee, and the Committee and a few delegates enjoyed the clearing skies and a few celebratory drinks on the patio of the University Club Café.
If you missed the WAFLPN Conference this year, you can access a video of the day, plus all the speaker’s presentations on the ‘Members Section’ of our website.