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E31: Where to get support

On the Show Today You’ll Learn

On this podcast Ben and Heather talk about the many agencies and resources that provide free or low cost support when going through a relationship breakdown.  It’s important to know there is help out there – you are not alone.

The areas covered include:

  • Resources to help you make the stay or go decision
  • Resources for people dealing with domestic violence or crisis situations
  • Resources for advice and assistance with family law matters
  • Resources for mediation and dispute resolution
  • Resources to help children get through separation

Be sure to check out the show notes which includes a complete listing of all the agencies and resources discussed.

Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

To help make the “stay or go” decision:

Relationships Australia NSW – offers counselling both online and in person

Uniting – offers counselling and mediation services

Family Relationship Advice Line – a national telephone service thats helps families affected by relationship breakdown

Centrecare – offers counselling, dispute resolution and domestic violence services

Interrelate – offers counselling and dispute resolution

Domestic Violence Assistance:

NSW Police – Ask to speak to someone from the dedicated domestic violence team

1800RESPECT – provides confidential information, counselling and support for people affected by family violence

Centrecare Family & Domestic Violence Services – provides support and counselling for families affected by family violence and works with adults and children to help find solutions to problems arising from family violence.

Relationships Australia NSW – offers counselling and support programs to assist people affected by family violence

NSW Domestic Violence Line – from the NSW Dept of Communities & Justice, provides counselling and referrals to women experiencing domestic violence

Warrina Domestic & Family Violence Specialist Services – located in Coffs Harbour, provides a range of services including refuge for women experiencing domestic violence

Legal Aid NSW Domestic Violence Unit – a team of lawyers and social workers to help people who have experienced family violence

Mid North Coast Legal Centre – offers legal support services to people who have experienced family violence

Lifeline – 24 hours telephone crisis support

Kids Help Line – 24/7 hotline for children, young adults and parents

Beyond Blue – offers a range of services for people with mental health concerns

Family Law Assistance:

Legal Aid NSW Family Law Practice – provides legal advice, dispute resolution and representation in family law matters

Law Access NSW  – from the NSW Dept of Communities & Justice, provides self help tools and a 1300 hotline to assist with a range of legal problems

Mid North Coast Legal Centre – offers social and legal advocacy to people in need across NSW

Women’s Legal Service NSW – a community legal centre offering a range of free legal services to women across NSW

Mediation & Dispute Resolutions:

Interrelate – offers a family dispute resolution process

Relationships Australia NSW – their Family Relationship Centres provide support through relationship changes and breakdown

Uniting – offers mediation services to minimise conflict and promote positive relationships

Help for Children:

Relationships Australia NSW – offer a range of services for children and youth

Uniting – their Child Inclusive Practice provides a space for children to be heard

Headspace – offers resources, online & phone services and personal support for youth and young adults

Kids Help Line – 24/7 hotline for children, young adults and parents

Previous podcasts on this subject:

Divorce & Children on the Spectrum, with child psychologist Amy Sketcher

Helping Children to Cope with Divorce & Separation, with forensic psychologist Ian Nisbet

Books to read with children to help better understand divorce & separation.  All of these titles are available at the public library.

Shared Parenting, by Jill Burrett & Michael Green

If Divorce is The Only Way, by John D. Bieber

Spiritual Divorce, by Debbie Ford

Who Gets The Dog?, by Kathryn Hodges

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Full Episode Transcript

Welcome! How to get support.

Benjamin Bryant: Welcome to The Family Matters Show podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Bryant from Bryant McKinnon Lawyers, and I’m here again with my partner in crime and family law expert Heather McKinnon to record episode 31. How are you, Heather?

Heather McKinnon: I’m pretty good Ben. I had a great holiday but it’s really hard to get through this Covid stuff. So far everybody around us has had it. We’ve escaped it. But, you know, lucky number I assume.

Benjamin Bryant: Absolutely. And we’re back in the saddle. We’re ready to go. And Heather, we know that going through a relationship breakdown can be emotionally draining, and dealing with the system is often confusing and frustrating. So, on today’s show, we are going to talk about all of the various ways you can get low cost or free support to help you through. It’s important to understand that you are not alone and that there is help out there.

Heather McKinnon: So true Ben. No one should be afraid to reach out for help, whatever their financial circumstance.

Benjamin Bryant: And one of the main reasons why we do this podcast Heather. The great news is that out there, there are so many resources to support you through divorce or separation. The bad news, though, is that can get confusing to figure out where to turn and when. So today we’re going to go through a range of different situations and point you to where to find help. We’ll be listing a whole lot of agencies and resources in today’s podcast, but don’t feel you need to be taking notes. Everything will be listed in the show notes on our website bryantmckinnon.com.au.

Benjamin Bryant: And just before we get started, I wanted to remind listeners to share this show with friends and family who might be starting out down the path of separation. There will be plenty of things in our ever-growing library of podcasts to help. Okay, let’s get stuck into the many ways to find support. Are you ready, Heather?

Heather McKinnon: Yeah.

Where to get help with the “stay or go” decision

Benjamin Bryant:  Heather in our last podcast, we spoke to Elizabeth Shaw, CEO of Relationships Australia, New South Wales, about that most difficult question in relationships, “Do I stay or do I go?” Heather, what resources are available to help people make this decision as wisely as possible?

Heather McKinnon: The best advice we can give is to look at organisations that have had a long history in the field and who have government approval, so they get funded if you like. So, we know there’s quality control. So, some of the big ones in Australia are United organisations, a counselling service, Relationships Australia, Interrelate, Centrecare. And of course, there are a number of mediation and counselling services that you can access by going online and having a look in your area at what’s offered. Obviously, there’s lots of ways to quality control. Ask your GP, ask your family or friends who’ve gone through a process and have found people helpful. It’s important that you feel good with the people that you get help from, and if the first session doesn’t go well, don’t think that’s the end of it. Get a good fit for you. But the biggest advice we could give is: go to an organisation that’s quality controlled through government regulation.

Benjamin Bryant: And one thing that… One of the main things that I got and one of the most interesting things I got from Elizabeth on our last episode, Heather was that distinction between counselling and mediation Because of course, as we as lawyers, we get the pointy end when people have most likely already made the decision to separate. Whereas Elizabeth is right there on the front end when they’re still making that decision, whether I stay or whether I go, so there’s that therapeutic counselling, that relationship counselling. And so, we have UnitingCare, we have Relationships Australia NSW and all these government agencies, like you said. But also, what about some local people, some relationship therapists or counsellors? Is there anyone locally that you can think of

Heather McKinnon:  The most important thing there is to look at people that have proper accreditation. In regional areas there is sometimes people who just set up as relationship counsellors, but they don’t really have the training and the recognition. So, it’s important to look at who you’re going to, what the qualifications are, how long they’ve been in practise and get some personal referrals. So, a good starting point is your GP. So, the people that offer most family and relationship counsellors are either going to be counsellors who may have TAFE qualifications or diplomas. Then you step up to registered psychologists or mental health social workers who have degrees and long standing and ongoing continuous education. In this area there are a number of those people that have been in the North Coast for over 20 years. The fact that they’ve been here for over 20 years, survived in business and are well known suggests they’ve probably got what it takes. So, I think best source of referral is going to be a GP or family and friends who’ve have gone through the process.

Benjamin Bryant: That’s right. And there is a distinct difference between a counsellor a psychologists and psychiatrist, and we’ve actually dedicated previous shows on that, so our listeners can check out those episodes as well.

Where to get help when experiencing domestic violence

Benjamin Bryant: Heather, the people who need help most urgently are those experiencing domestic violence. How do people get help in those situations, both general advice and also quick action when it’s needed?

Heather McKinnon: Well, first step, obviously is the police. And we’re lucky in that most big police stations now have dedicated domestic violence teams, and they have police officers in each station who are responsible for the domestic violence programme within communities. So, if you go to the front desk of your local police station or you ring and you’re not satisfied that you’re getting the right information, please persist and ask to speak to one of the domestic violence teams. My experience is if you get through to those teams, they’re brilliant. They have all of the connections in the community with the various agencies that help back up people going through the experience. So, they’ll refer you to the local domestic violence units based at things like the women’s refuges or the family support services within your town.

Heather McKinnon: If you’re too frightened to go to the police, my recommendation is that you do some online or telephone calls: 1800Respect, Domestic Violence Line, Relationships Australia, Women’s Legal Service NSW. If you feel that you want to ask anonymous questions not involving the police, then those agencies are all listed on the website and I would highly recommend that you at least start there if you’re too traumatised to contact the police.

Benjamin Bryant: And of course, Heather, a lot of communities have women’s refuges.  And I know in Coffs Harbour we Warinna here and of course, they’re scattered around, so that’s probably a good point of call as well.

Heather McKinnon: Absolutely. I mean, I think Ben, my first contact on the board of Warinna was in the 1980s, and in those days, they operated out of a house and there were volunteers and they had a little minivan. And when someone had to leave the house, the workers would actually go and get the furniture out. It was grassroots work. But to see, over my 40 years, here in this community, the development of the understanding of how to safely get women and children out of violent situations has progressed remarkably. And obviously those agencies have years and decades of helping people.

Benjamin Bryant: If you’re at the real pointy end and you are in crisis, of coure  you have 000, NSW Police, Department of Communities and Justice (although everyone still calls them DOCs), Lifeline, Kids Helpline and, of course Beyondblue the top ones that people can call in time of crisis.

Where to get legal help with divorce and separation

Benjamin Bryant: We always recommend that anyone going through separation gets some legal advice, even if the separation feels amicable. It’s just a good idea to know exactly what the law allows. But Heather not everyone has the resources for a lawyer. What are the options under these circumstances?

Heather McKinnon: So, in most regional areas like Coffs, Tamworth, Orange, Wagga, Albury, Legal Aid has an office in those regional centres. And if you ring Legal Aid, they usually have a free advice clinic once a week. So that can be a good starting point. You go and have a half an hour meeting with one of the Legal Aid lawyers, and they will give you that overview advice. Many family law firms offer short telephone consultations just to get you started and to check things like your eligibility for legal aid. There’s the Law Access Hotline, which you’ll see on our website. There are community legal centres in many regional areas in New South Wales, and the Women’s Legal Centre also has a team of lawyers and you can book in for telephone or online sessions with one of those lawyers. So they’re great ways to access that preliminary crisis advice.

When to turn to friends and family for support

Benjamin Bryant: And Heather a question that I just thought of and I’ll put you on this spot. Everyone has a support network. Everyone has family and friends. And that’s a lot of people’s first port of call. When do you think it is appropriate to rely on advice from friends or family or to get the independent professional advice?

Heather McKinnon: So, I had this discussion yesterday with a client who had got around him a whole lot of friends, but I said to him, you must identify those people who are strong and functioning. The worst thing you can do is embed yourself in a time of crisis with people who live in that drama world.

Benjamin Bryant: Reactive.

Heather McKinnon: Exactly, and it’s a really hard piece of advice to give people. But if you are in one of these crises, often you’ve come out of a background where you have a high bar for stress. And so, my preference always is to support people to get independent help from a properly qualified professional. The hardest part of recovering from a separation is to actually investigate your role in that journey. And that’s where you’ll need a professional. And so, you will know the friends that are good listeners and who are calm and who are able to positively help you.

Benjamin Bryant: And not just tell you what you want to hear.

Heather McKinnon: Correct.

Where to get help with dispute resolution

Benjamin Bryant: Yeah. Great answer, Heather. Effective mediation and dispute resolution can avoid separation turning nasty. And even if things turn sour, the court requires you to go through mediation before your case can even be heard. So what are the options for low cost mediation Heather?

Heather McKinnon: So, in this area, Interrelate do a large amount of the work for intervention in children’s matters. In property matters and children’s matters if parties can afford modest fees, there are some fantastic mediators who service the North Coast: Mediation Solutions, two men that you will see on podcasts who also mediate for the court Philip Theobald and Peter Marr. All of those agencies during the pandemic have developed online mediation services, so you don’t have to leave the safety and privacy of your own home if you don’t want to. So it’s really horses for courses. You’ve got to look at your budget, you have to look at what the issues are. But overwhelmingly, you have to look at, is this matter ready for mediation. If it is a case involving, significant family violence, those options may not be the best ones for you.

Where to get help for kids going through family breakdown

Benjamin Bryant: Hmm. And finally, Heather, let’s talk about the kids. Most parents want to make sure their children come through the separation process unscathed. But even with their parents best efforts, children often suffer. What are the resources available to parents if they feel that kids need some help? Heather.

Heather McKinnon: I’m a really big fan of school-based help initially. Schools are probably the people who know children best outside the family, and many school counsellors are really brilliant at helping children adjust to what’s happening at home. But in most areas, again, we have Relationships Australia, we have Uniting who provides counselling services. In more significant cases where children are in high school, Headspace is fantastic at helping adolescents navigate any major crisis. Kids Helpline, Youth Line, library has heaps of resources for parents who need help to discuss with their kids what’s happening.  So, what you start looking, there’s a lot of places out there to help you.

Benjamin Bryant: And Heather we refer a lot of books to our clients and obviously our clients being parents, mostly. I’ll list a few of the names but I will put them on our website, of course. The good ones that I always refer to is Shared Parenting by Green. If Divorce Is The Only Way by Bieber, Spiritual Divorce by Ford. And of course, I love, Who Gets The Dog by Hodges. So check our website for the full name and title of those books.  Also Heather, I just wanted to do a shout out again to Amy Sketcher from Seasons Allied Health. So, she was a psychologist that came on, I think, two, perhaps three episodes ago to assist us, particularly with children on the autism spectrum, but also children in general, and how they can cope with separation and trying to get them through unscathed. So, our listeners can check that episode out as well.

Heather McKinnon: Yeah. And I think it’s really important to understand that there are some fantastic child psychologists in this area and a big shout out to our three paediatricians Dr Naidoo, Dr Doug Walla and Stephanie White, who form the backbone of the treatment of children who are in serious distress in this community?

Benjamin Bryant: Absolutely.

Goodbye for now…

Benjamin Bryant: Wow Heather, you don’t realise how much support is actually out there until you go through a show like this. I really hope this list is going to help plenty of our people in the community that are navigating family breakdowns.

Heather McKinnon: Thanks Ben, and it’s really good to be back from holidays and facing another year.

Benjamin Bryant: And I just wanted to remind everyone that the full list of support options will be on the show notes on our website. Just go to bryantmckinnon.com.au and look for episode 31 of The Family Matters Show podcast. And thank you for being so informative today. Heather.

Benjamin Bryant: Next month’s show is going to be a fun one. Two of the solicitors who work here at Bryant McKinnon, Gemma Rope and Jess Smith are going to join me to talk about juggling work and parenting. There is no doubt that this is one of life’s biggest family complications, and we’re hoping Gemma and Jess have some good advice to share on the topic.

Benjamin Bryant: If you have specific questions or stories that you would like to share with us about managing work and parenting, please send them to familymatters@bryantmckinnon.com.au or message us on Facebook. We would love to know what’s on your mind. As I always say at the end of the show, please don’t forget to share this podcast with friends and family who need it. Also, a reminder that you’ll find links to all the resources on getting support, plus a full transcript of today’s show in the show notes on our website. Goodbye for now and we hope to have your ears again next month.

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