The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare would like to thank Judge Peter Couzens, President of the Children’s Court of Victoria, the Magistrates and court staff for the opportunity to visit the Children’s Court in Melbourne. The Centre was taken for a tour of the Children’s Court including the Family and Criminal Division. The Family Division hear child protection matters and the Criminal Division youth justice matters. The Family Division was very busy on the day with Magistrates hearing new matters and contest hearings.
The Centre for Excellence was very impressed with the work of the Children’s Court and in particular the modern conciliation conference facilities. The purpose built conciliation conference facilities are in a separate building to the Melbourne Children’s Court. Conciliation conferences are conducted in most contested Children’s Court child protection applications. The facilities comprise 9 conference rooms and 11 break out rooms, including a large multi-purpose conference/training room and a Koori conference room. Conciliation Conferences are held early in the court process to facilitate the early resolution of applications. The Conciliation Conference process provides for more time for discussion and an appropriate process for those children who wish to participate. Furthermore, it can provide co-convened conferences with a Koori facilitator for Koori children and families.
Conciliation conferences occur in approximately 75% of matters brought before the Children’s Court and achieve resolutions in 50% of matters and partial resolutions (which means that some of the issues of dispute have an agreed resolution) in 25% of matters. The majority of the unresolved 25% are then referred back to the Children’s Court for determination. See below Conciliation Conference Guidelines for more information.
In addition, the Centre met with the Children’s Court Magistrates who provided invaluable insight into their observations of the needs of vulnerable and traumatised children and families and the importance of timely service provision. The Centre hopes to visit the Children’s Court again in the near future to learn more about the work of the Court including their specialists lists such as the Family Drug Treatment Court.
Please feel free to contact Moira Kairys, Director Learning and Development at the Centre if you or your organisation are interested in learning more on the work of the Children’s Court of Victoria.