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Evaluation of alternative dispute resolution initiatives in the care and protection jurisdiction of the NSW Children’s Court.

Morgan, Anthony
June 4, 2015

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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