Young Peoples Family Law Advisory Group

 

The Young People’s Family Law Advisory Group ( YPFLAG) was a ‘first of its kind’ pilot project developed in 2016/17 by the South Australian Family Law Pathways Network ( SAFLPN) , the aim of which was to provide young people who have experienced family breakdown an opportunity to share their experiences about the family law system.  The YPFLAG project was supported by a Working Group made up of interested persons of the SAFLPN and a modest one off grant was received from a philanthropic source, the Broadley Trust.

The YPFLAG pilot project was made up of 10 young people aged between 12 and 17 (4 boys and 6 girls) from various backgrounds whose parents were separated and who had had some form of contact with some or all parts of the family law system, including (but not limited to) the Family Court system, Children’s Post Separation support Groups (such as Banana Splitz), Independent Children’s Lawyers, Child Inclusive Mediation or Children’s Contact Services.

The YPFLAG met in a safe and neutral environment at regular intervals throughout 2016 and 2017 to discuss various issues involved in their interactions with these experiences. The group were supported during discussions by three co-facilitators to share their stories about what this was like for them and to provide feedback about how to improve systems in an effort to make the experiences for future children and young people experiencing parental separation a better one. The group was offered therapeutic support during the course of meetings as well as post – meetings if required.

The YPFLAG was asked provide honest feedback and make comment about certain aspects of the system, such as the content of Post Separation Parenting Courses; policy and procedures for children and young people in the family court system; legal issues and other relevant matters which affect children and young people whose parents are separating. The group provided this feedback through a number of methods, such as through exercises, group discussions, individual sessions and the like.

Primarily, the main objectives of the YPFLAG were to:

  1. Obtain a comprehensive array of information from participants about a variety of issues concerning their experiences of all facets of the family law system;
  2. Prepare an evaluation about these findings;
  3. Assist participants of the YPFLAG in skill building, such as running a meeting, taking notes/minutes and other similar life skills.

The feedback from the YPFLAG pilot group was documented and has provided interesting insights about young people’s lived experience of their encounters with the family law system and the ramifications of living with those outcomes. There has also been some early promising indicators about how the voice of young people and children can affect change on a systematic level where for instance, following a tour by the YPFLAG of the newly renovated ‘Childcare’ area in the Family Law Courts in Adelaide, changes were made by management at the Courts acknowledging this feedback.

Former Chief Justice of the Family Court, the Honourable Diana Bryant AO and Ambassador for the YPFLAG has said about the project: “If we are serious about making the family law child and young people friendly, then YPFLAG will help us to achieve exactly that. It will assist us to hear what young people have to say about the family law system and then make meaningful and relevant changes to address their needs.”

The pilot project final report can be found here. 

The report will also be distributed to major stakeholders working in the family law sector. The aim of the report from the YPFLAG will be to encourage government and policy makers about the need to hear and consult the voice of children and young people in policies and procedures across the family law system and encourage them to fund an ongoing YPFLAG in the future, to secure it as a mainstay of the family law system in Australia. A special launch of the YPFLAG report was held at the AFCC Conference in Adelaide on 18 August 2018.

Although the funding grant from the initial source has ceased, the SAFLPN is committed to continuing to run the YPFLAG whilst seeking additional funding to continue this work and expand it into a full program.