Culturally safe and secure mediation services

Culturally safe and secure mediation services

Monday, 27 May 2019

We are making improvement to our mediation service, Family Dispute Resolution Service (FDRS), to ensure it is a more culturally safe and secure environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

FDRS offers an opportunity to many Victorian families to make their own decisions about parenting and financial arrangements after a separation, but we acknowledge that more needs to be done to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients to feel comfortable to use the service.

‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities experience significant disadvantage and we know they can be reluctant to use legal and other services which have a perceived connection to government,’ said FDRS Manager, Freia Carlton.

‘In consultation with Aboriginal people and Aboriginal services, we have created a cultural security framework to guide our work, because we are genuinely committed to making our services more responsive, accessible and appropriate for all families.’

FDRS Manager, Freia Carlton

We know we need to increase awareness about legal and dispute resolution services and do more to explain how they can help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and their children.

To develop the framework, we examined the legal needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, gaps in current services, and our model of mediation.

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FDRS sessions are run by an independent mediator, known as a Chairperson.

Wiradjuri woman Kathy Cullen is an Aboriginal chairperson on the FDRS panel.

‘I hope the framework will provide a building block towards the delivery of family dispute resolution services that are tailored to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, and involve community engagement and partnering with appropriate organisations,’ said Kathy.

‘Western models of dispute resolution often fail to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. Concepts of family may differ and the boundaries between family, community and work may be blurred.’

‘When you get Aboriginal clients through the door they want to deal with you, not be referred on to another person or service.'

Aboriginal Chairperson, Kathy Cullen

‘A culturally secure service provides an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to have a yarn in a safe environment about how best to care for children after separation, and can even help to heal families,’ said Kathy.

The framework commits FDRS to a range of actions including staff training, the development of new resources and consultation with Aboriginal clients about the design and location of mediation sessions.

‘We all need to get better at providing culturally safe and secure services, particularly when there is the involvement of child protection authorities, or the risk of children losing connection to their culture,’ said Freia.

‘The development of this framework is just a starting point – we know we have a lot to learn and we are looking forward to working with our clients and other service providers to continue to build on this work.’

The framework will be reviewed in November and feedback is welcome.

More information

To find out more about the FDRS cultural security framework please email Freia Carlton at

Read about using our Family Dispute Resolution Service.

Read about our Reconciliation Action Plan.

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