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Tuesday, 8 August 2006
Page: 16

Mr FAWCETT (3:11 PM) —My question is to the Attorney-General. Would the Attorney-General update the House on progress in establishing the new family relationship centres to help build stronger families throughout Australia?

Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) —I thank the honourable member for Wakefield for his question and also for his sage counsel and advice as chair of the backbench task force advising in relation to the implementation of this very important program. I am delighted to be able to advise the House that all 15 family relationship centres opened to the public on schedule at the beginning of July. I might say that that happened notwithstanding suggestions that it may not occur. I commend those who were very much involved in ensuring that this investment of more than $400 million by the Australian government could play a very positive role in the lives of Australian families.

In the first month of operation the 15 relationship centres have received more than 2,000 phone calls, and over 720 people have dropped in for assistance with relationship issues. They have conducted more than 1,000 interviews, and hundreds have attended group sessions. The family relationships advice line answered more than 8,600 calls during July. Thousands of information kits about the family law system have been distributed to those seeking advice from the advice line. More than 31,000 visits have been made on the family relationships online website. It is clear that the community is ready to embrace the government’s vision in relation to relationship problems, which is that it is better to talk than go to court and that parents should focus on their children rather than treating them like another item of property over which you litigate.

I have been officially opening centres over the past few weeks. We have been able to open nine centres so far—at Salisbury, Elizabeth, Hobart, Sutherland, Penrith, Wollongong, Strathpine, Sunshine, Ringwood and Frankston—and I am going to launch the Canberra centre this afternoon. All the centres are staffed by committed and enthusiastic professionals who are concerned with helping families on relationship issues. I have nothing but praise for the good work the staff are undertaking at all the centres I have attended.

Mr Martin Ferguson interjecting

Mr RUDDOCK —The member for Batman does not seem very interested, but I might say that the member for Gellibrand was able to visit the Sunshine centre this week and has seen firsthand the professional and safe advice and service that has been provided. She welcomed the opening of that centre, and I hope she will be able to welcome generally the implementation of these very important measures.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.