30 April 2004

Cultural diversity training for judges and staff is one of a range of measures to be implemented by the Family Court of Australia under a new National Cultural Diversity Plan launched today by Chair of the Court's National Cultural Diversity Committee, Justice Neil Buckley.

The National Cultural Diversity Plan is the culmination of four years of pioneering self-examination and consultation aimed at improving service delivery to Australia's culturally and linguistically diverse population.

"The Court has had a long interest in and commitment to providing services to meet the needs of its culturally and linguistically diverse clients and communities, but it recognised it could do much better," Justice Buckley said.

"Family breakdown is always difficult and painful and the Court process can exacerbate the distress of already vulnerable clients — never more so than for those born overseas or for whom English is a second language.

"It has been the Family Court's desire to minimise that distress and provide tailored and responsive services which meet the needs of all of its clients that has driven the Court to develop this innovative, national plan of action."

The National Cultural Diversity Plan is action oriented and responds to the feedback the Court has received in various internal and external consultative forums. In addition, the Court's progress and success with the Plan will be transparently measurable.

The Plan comprises a number of initiatives, some of which are already underway including the introduction of a language skills register of bilingual staff, an extensive review of interpreter services, and the revision of forms to collect more comprehensive data from clients.

"The revision of forms is the most significant as it will be the first time that this information has been systematically collected by any court in Australia," Justice Buckley said. "The Court's goal is to ensure that the needs of people from the many and varied cultural and linguistic backgrounds, who make Australia such a rich and stimulating environment in which to live, is fully integrated into the mainstream of the Court's work.

"The Plan is tangible evidence of our commitment to that goal and identifies not only the pathway, but also defines the actions that will be implemented during the next two financial years.

"The National Cultural Diversity Plan marks an important milestone for the Judges and staff of the Court, for our clients from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and for organisations representing the interests of those clients," Justice Buckley said.