Catholic Welfare welcoming Govt plan to save marriage

Married couples thinking of divorce or separation will be encouraged to sit through a series of lectures - including advice on child rearing and seeking help from family members - according to new details of the Federal Government's family relationship centres.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the 65 centres across the country will enforce rules that compel couples to attend three-hour counselling sessions before seeking to end their relationship in the Family Court system.

The revelation - in pre-tender documents for the centres obtained by the Herald - follows backbench concerns that the centres should focus on keeping families together rather than smooth the way towards separation.

It also comes as the Prime Minister, John Howard, began the year by encouraging people to attend pre-marriage counselling.

The overhauled Family Law Act says couples must attend a free, three-hour counselling session at one of the 65 centres before going to court. The courses that will supplement those sessions will include relationship counselling and classes on child rearing, and more

Frank Quinlan, executive director of Catholic Welfare Australia, told the Herald that community and church organisations were aware of the growing role of the Family Relationship Centres.

"It is not necessarily a bad thing provided we can be sure people are not exposed to services that are less than professional," Mr Quinlan said.

Family Services Australia, a group representing 87 community organisations, has been lobbying the Federal Government to ensure staff at the new centres have the necessary professional qualifications for dealing with people who have experienced domestic violence.

Although many community and church-based organisations have applied for the $400 million the Government has allocated to the new centres, they are concerned they may be edged out by private, profit-based organisations.

The centres will be run along the same lines as the Job Network system, which is operated by a mixture of corporate and community- or church-based organisations.

Those running the centres will be able to outsource some of the services they are required to provide, and funding will be based on the number of people who use the centres, which services they use and the longevity of parenting agreements following separation

Revealed: the battle plan to save marriage (Sydney Morning Herald 9/1/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Welfare Australia

Federal Budget boosts family relationships (CathNews 11/5/05)

9 Jan 2006