One of the most controversial aspects of mediation practice is its use with parties whose relationship has involved domestic violence, with critics pointing out the potential for a discussion based process such as mediation to reinforce the power imbalance, fear and voicelessness experienced by the survivor of domestic violence. On the other hand, the potential benefits of mediation are clear, there is scope for the process to actively empower participants, and mediation holds a central role in Family Dispute Resolution in Australia under Part VII of the Family Law Act.
Dr Rachael Field, Associate Professor at QUT Law, has recently published a piece with co-author Angela Lynch releasing the results of a pilot study, run by the Federal Attorney General, into a family mediation model specifically designed for use with parties with a history of domestic violence.
The piece is published in the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law and is entitled Hearing parties’ voices in Coordinated Family Dispute Resolution (CFDR): An Australian pilot of a family mediation model designed for matters involving a history of domestic violence (link to open access).
This process was evaluated by the Australian Institute of Family Studies as being ‘at the cutting edge of family law practice’ because it involves the conscious application of mediation where there has been a history of family violence, in a clinically collaborative multidisciplinary and multi-agency setting. The authors conclude that Australian government’s failure to invest resources in the ongoing funding of this model jeopardises the safety and efficacy of family dispute resolution practice in family violence contexts, and compromises the hearing of the voices of family violence victims and their children.