New family dispute resolution services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families

Closed 8 Apr 2022

Opened 1 Feb 2022

Feedback updated 14 Dec 2022

We asked

The Australian Government’s first Implementation Plan under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap included funding for culturally safe and appropriate family dispute resolution (FDR) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. To design the new services, we engaged with stakeholders across government, the Coalition of Peaks, community organisations and interested community members between 1 February and 8 April 2022.

You said

Over 60 individuals and organisations participated in a number of virtual meetings and workshops during the consultation period. We also received 22 written submissions. Participants came from locations across Australia, and brought a wealth of experience and expertise. This included representatives from:

  • the community 
  • the service delivery sector
  • courts 
  • peak and professional bodies 
  • training organisations
  • Commonwealth and state governments.

Key findings from the consultation process included: 

  • It is important to ensure funding is flexible enough to allow organisations to deliver tailored, culturally safe models of FDR appropriate to the unique needs of individuals, families and communities, while still meeting program requirements and the best interests of children.
  • Funding amounts and short timeframes for implementation potentially limit the ability of the services to best support families and achieve desired outcomes.
  • Definitions of ‘family’ should extend beyond notions of the nuclear family to include broader kinship networks and extended family. This includes provisions for multiple parties to be involved in the FDR process, and appropriate time, travel allowance and resourcing to accommodate this. 
  • The extensive time and resources required to recruit and/or train FDR Practitioners, especially given current problems recruiting and housing staff, may lead to difficulties implementing the program.
  • The requirements to become a FDR Practitioner may present a barrier to some First Nations people who have the lived/professional experience, rather than the qualifications required. 
  • It is important to ensure appropriate arrangements are put in place (e.g. for reporting and evaluation purposes) to provide data sovereignty for ACCOs and communities.
  • FDR has promising potential to resolve family arrangements in the best interests of children through an early-intervention approach, which may lead to reduced involvement by child protection authorities and youth courts in some cases.

We did

We have used the feedback and information shared during the consultation process to inform the Grant Opportunity Guidelines for the new First Nations Family Dispute Resolution services. The information will also continue to inform future policy development and decisions.

We recently ran a grant selection process for the new services. We ensured there was Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander representation on the Selection Advisory Panel for the grant round, as stakeholders identified this as important during the consultation process. The new services are expected to commence in early 2023.

We thank all those involved in the consultation process for their time and engagement with the project, and for sharing their views, information and ideas.

Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.


The Australian Government’s first Implementation Plan under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap  included an announcement to provide funding for culturally safe and appropriate family dispute resolution for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. Family dispute resolution (FDR) is a type of mediation delivered under the Family Law Act 1975 to help separated or separating families formulate their own agreements about parenting and property matters. It is done with the professional assistance of accredited FDR practitioners.

The measure provides $8.3 million over 3 years to support selected Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to train and/or employ Family Dispute Resolution FDR practitioners to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families resolve post-separation parenting and property disputes. Pending outcomes of this consultation process and the grant selection process, a grant round is anticipated to open to eligible service providers in mid‑2022, with service delivery to commence by January 2023 and conclude on 30 June 2024.

Working together to design the new services

The Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) is working with stakeholders across government, the Coalition of Peaks, community organisations and interested community members to inform the development of various elements of the grant opportunity and selection process. Information gathered through the consultation process may also be used for other Commonwealth purposes, such as informing potential future investment and policy decisions regarding FDR for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

While FDR practitioners will still be required to operate in accordance with the Family Law (Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners) Regulations 2008 (the FDRP Regulations), this consultation process is seeking information around what culturally safe and appropriate FDR for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families could look like and how it would best operate.

The department welcomes feedback and ideas from stakeholders in response to the issues identified in the Discussion Paper, as well as comments and views on any other issues that may not have not been canvassed, but should be considered. You do not need to answer every question we ask. You are welcome to only respond to those questions that are relevant to you or your organisation.

The consultation process will run until 8 April 2022. If preferred, you can provide your input via email to You are encouraged to include a name and contact details for the department to discuss your input should there be a need to do so. Personal information shared through the consultation process will be treated in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988. For more information on how the department collects, stores and uses personal information please visit the department’s Privacy Policy.

The department will host a number of virtual meetings and workshops in February and March 2022 as part of this consultation process. To express interest in being involved in the meetings or workshops, or to arrange a time to provide verbal feedback, please email

To meet probity requirements, relevant information gathered and shared through the consultation process will be made publicly available to ensure all parties have access to the relevant information as required. This consultation process is for information gathering only, and all input provided during consultation is subject to what is ultimately included in the Grant Opportunity Guidelines and Grant Agreements. Conversations will also continue with relevant stakeholders throughout the grant opportunity’s implementation and evaluation phases.


  • Government
  • Family