20 May 2008

The evaluation of the first community-driven education strategy around the Australian legal system was released today by the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia.

The Living in Harmony Partnership, between the Court and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), set out to improve services to the culturally and linguistically clients.

“The Living in Harmony Partnership was the first of its kind for any court in Australia and has attracted national and international interest,” the Honourable Diana Bryant said.

“It involved working with people from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan to improve their understanding of family law and our court and promote trust. 

“Through the project, the Court leant a lot about the new and emerging communities and the difficulties they face, both as individuals and as a group, settling in a new country.

“Court staff gained or extended skills in building relationships and providing culturally responsive and appropriate services.

“Australian law is confusing for newly arrived people and, through the Living In Harmony Partnership, the Court tried to make family law and the difference between state and commonwealth jurisdictions a little clearer.

“I know from the pride on the faces of participants who received graduation certificates that they gained a lot of confidence and will share that with members of their community and other new arrivals.”

The Partnership aimed to:

  • Develop and strengthen relationships between new and emerging communities and the Court
  • foster cross-community relations between communities about families and the law
  • examine how the Court could contribute to community harmony by strengthening community leadership in communities.

The evaluation of the Partnership revealed that there had been substantial gains for the Family Court and partner agencies and, equally importantly, there had been significant gains for the communities involved.

“The Family Court has incorporated the findings into strategies for use in its day-to-day business”, Justice Nahum Mushin, chair of the national Cultural Diversity Committee of the Family Court, said.

“The Court has made a commitment to promote this model of engagement strategy to other organisations and it all begins with having the right organisational framework in place. 

“Partnerships are the key to successfully serving culturally and linguistically diverse clients”, he said.