13 October 2006

The Family Court of Australia welcomes the federal government's grant of $950,000 directed towards the Courts' Mental Health Support Program (MHSP), providing the Court with the opportunity of being part of a wider initiative dealing with the critical issue of suicide prevention.

The funding boost allows for the continuation of a successful pilot program that focused on the way the Court can best serve clients suffering from mental illness at times of stress.

"This funding allocation will allow the Court to continue the implementation of an important training program for staff over the next two and half years," says Richard Foster, Chief Executive Officer of the Family Court of Australia, "which will significantly improve staff knowledge and understanding of mental health issues."

The funds granted by government will be aimed at improving the Family Court of Australia's systems and processes to be more supportive of the mental health and emotional well being of clients. This will be done by implementing a national skilling program that includes a MHSP component and incorporates areas of basic client service training, including family violence, addressing the needs of specific client groups such as men, women, children, indigenous and the culturally diverse.

The program will provide staff with the skills to deal with clients who present with a mental health or emotional wellbeing issue; develop clear guidelines for staff in the dealing with clients in emotional distress while improving client and staff awareness of mental health and emotional wellbeing during separation.

This will be achieved by promoting awareness, providing skills and putting in place supporting infrastructure to enable the support of timely referral of "at risk" clients to appropriate mental health support services in the community.