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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6729

Mr Andrews asked the Attorney-General, in writing, on 24 May 2010:

In respect of a recent media report ‘Cuts to send family battles back to court’ by Patricia Karvelas (The Australian, 13 May 2010, pages 1, 6): (a) why has the Government reduced funding by $43.9 million to Family Relationship Centres under the Family Relationship Services Program, and (b) has he considered the impact of this decision on (i) separating families, and (ii) the Family Court.

Mr McClelland (Attorney-General) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(a)   The Government provides over $200 million per annum to the Family Relationships Services Program to support families. The Government has identified savings within the program of $48.4 million over four years. The majority of the savings have been found by reducing activities to be undertaken by or on behalf of my Department. The savings offset which will directly affect Family Relationship Centres is the introduction of fees for the second and third hour of dispute resolution at Family Relationship Centres—a saving of $3 million per year. These changes will not come into effect until 1 July 2011. Importantly Family Relationship Centres will be able to recoup these savings through the introduction of new fees of $30 per hour for the second and third hour of family dispute resolution when a client earns over $50,000 per year. The first hour will continue to be free for all clients. Those earning under $50,000 per annum or who fall under one of the waivers will continue to receive up to 3 hours of free FDR.

(b)   Yes. Importantly while the Government has reallocated funding from the Family Relationship Services Program, the Government is actually reinvesting $154 million for legal assistance services across Australia, a significant proportion of which will be used to specifically to help families resolve disputes through targeted legal assistance. These changes now mean more funds are being provided to frontline services to help the most vulnerable Australian families. For example, additional funding will mean more families utilising Family Relationship Centres will be able to access legal information and advice. The Attorney-General’s Department will work with the Family Relationship Services sector on details of implementation of these changes to minimise the impact on the delivery of services, including an analysis of the ability of individual Family Relationship Centres to recoup fees.