Source: (2012) AIC Reports Research and Public Policy Series. 118. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology .

The new model of DRC and the Legal Aid Pilot were implemented in response to recommendations made as part of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW to increase the use of ADR prior to, and in, care and protection proceedings (Wood 2008). The NSW Government’s response to the Wood (2008) Inquiry, Keep Them Safe: A Shared Approach to Child Wellbeing 2009–2014, led to the establishment of four models of ADR used at different stages of the child protection system. This included the new model of DRC, the Legal Aid Pilot, Nowra Care Circles Pilot and Family Group Conferencing Pilot program. The new model of DRC commenced operation across New South Wales in the care and protection jurisdiction of the Children’s Court in February 2011, in place of the previous model of preliminary conferences. The Legal Aid Pilot, which is based on the Legal Aid Family Dispute Resolution Service, was established in September 2010 for care matters referred from the Bidura Children’s Court. The DRCs and Legal Aid Pilot provide an opportunity for the parties involved in a matter to meet as part of a non-adversarial process where all parties can openly and respectfully discuss the issues relevant to the care application. While there are some important differences between the two models of operation, both programs involve conferences that are facilitated by a neutral third party and aim to: • provide the parties with an opportunity to agree on the action that should be taken in the best interests of the child and where an agreement cannot be reached, narrow the scope and length of the court hearing; • produce child protection decisions that are better informed and more responsive; • foster collaborative, rather than adversarial, relationships between the Department of Family and Community Services and families; and • lead to outcomes that are accepted by all parties and therefore more likely to be implemented (ADREWP 2009). (excerpt)

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