FLPA Presentation in Townsville

On Saturday 19 November, I was privileged to be a presenter at FLPA in the Tropics, Townsville with several other colleagues and respected judges. This was a repeat of the FLPA presentation in Cairns earlier in the year.

Justice Forrest of the Family Court of Australian poignantly underscored the resourcing issues facing those courts exercising family law jurisdiction. It was also interesting to hear from Justice Tree and Judge Coker of the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court respectively about how those resourcing issues were particularly amplified in their region.

Interestingly, when it came to the two sessions that I co-presented, it was apparent that private mediation was not as commonly adopted in comparison to Brisbane. The experiences of the local lawyers were that the close-knit community of family lawyers often convened conferences between themselves to resolve disputes for clients. Those matters that did proceed to court were often then settled through conciliation conferences. A collaborative approach seemed to prevail however it was clear more experienced mediators were desired.

With a small pool of local mediators available (often conflicted out of acting as mediator) and a lack of experienced mediators willing to travel to Townsville, the valuable mediation model being regularly used in SEQ was not being utilised.

Contrary to my experience when previously presenting upon arbitration in Brisbane, Townsville practitioners appeared to be very keen to consider arbitration of financial disputes and were eager to find out more. With only one full time judicial officer in each court, the time delays were no doubt a driving factor for this enthusiasm.

But it wasn't all about just the law and the twin topics of finding happiness in the law and practising mindfulness again resonated strongly with the delegates. Clarissa Rayward and Fiona Caulley again gave useful tips and everyday practises that we can employ. Having heard these presentations earlier in the year and implementing some of these strategies in my own life and mediation practice, I shared some of my own positive experiences in the last few months. (previous article touchy thiele and podcast)

Of course, it would not have been a FLPA presentation without something special and that came in the form of a challenge from Justice Forrest to play music and dance in between each session. Jennifer McArdle and I chose ABBAs, “Money, Money, Money” for our presentation on interim spousal maintenance. Apropos don't you think?

After the session closed, most of the presenters and myself made use of the extended daylight in Townsville and the challenge of a nearby hill before dinner and departure.