Lismore Family Relationship Centre clientservices officer Con Perakis (left), mediators Tony Madden and Judith Rodron, and manager Julie Leete.
Lismore Family Relationship Centre clientservices officer Con Perakis (left), mediators Tony Madden and Judith Rodron, and manager Julie Leete. Dominic Feain

Funding cuts to affect families

PLANNED funding cuts to the Northern Rivers Family Relationship Centre could leave it with a $40,000 annual shortfall and send more family disputes back to court, area manager Julie Leete says.

The cuts are designed to save the Federal Government $43.9 million over three years and were costed into the last Budget, but buried in the details and have only recently come to light.

“The cuts seem very short-sighted when we know there has been a 36 per cent drop in Family Law Court applications since Family Relationship Centres started in 2006, and we have performed so well in our region.” Ms Leete said.

“On top of that the fees will create another barrier to struggling families thinking of coming for mediation.”

Under the plan, families with one income over $50,000 will have to pay $30 an hour for each subsequent session after the first free session.

Ms Leete fears the proposed cuts will slash $46,154 from the Northern Rivers service each year for three years. But due to the high number of low-income earners in the region, the client fees would only compensate the service for a small fraction of the shortfall, leaving them about $40,000 short annually.

Ms Leete has written to Page MP Janelle Saffin seeking clarification on the cuts, which she fears will severely disadvantage local families.

Ms Saffin confirmed she had received the letter and promised to take it up with the Attorney-General.

“We first need to establish if it will create disadvantage, and if that is correct I would object strongly because they provide a wonderful service that I consider essential for our community,” Ms Saffin said. “They really do help a lot of people.

“I have sought a face-to-face meeting with the Attorney-General to work it out.”

Relationships Australia vice-president Anne Hollonds, who runs about half of Australia’s 65 centres, said last month that the sector was baffled by the cuts as theprogram was so successful.

“You can’t resolve disputes in an hour,” she said.



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