Reflections on gender and gendered violence in post-separation family dispute resolution: emerging issues and interventions

Stream: Working For Accountability in Cross-Agency Responses
Date: Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Time: 1.00 pm – 2.45 pm


The application of alternative dispute resolution approaches to Australian family law matters has increased markedly over the past three decades. Since 2006 an attempt at mediation prior to applying to the Family Court has been compulsory for separating couples, with one exception being the “reasonable grounds for belief” of family violence, or risk of such violence [Family Law Act 1975 S. 60(I) 9]. However, large-scale empirical research studies [Kaspiew et al, 2009; Qu & Weston, 2010; De Maio et al, 2012] show that a significant number of mediation clients have experienced, or are currently experiencing, family violence. The legitimate concerns of power imbalance, mediator ‘neutrality’ and the risk of misunderstanding the nature of conflict between separated couples inform emerging models. This presentation addresses current gendered-violence debates in the mediation sector, including understandings of ‘high conflict’ and coercive controlling violence, the concept of ‘gender neutrality’ and the influence of therapeutic mediation approaches. An analysis of current models for work with coercive controlling violence is presented. The presentation concludes with reflections on the presenters’ current research projects and a description of the ‘conditional model’ as a viable, safety-focused intervention where gendered violence is an issue in post-separation family dispute resolution.


Amelia Wheeler (Presenter), University of New South Wales
Amelia is a qualitative social researcher engaged in a number of projects in the post-separation family dispute resolution sector, all of which have a focus on gendered violence. Amelia is currently pursuing her PhD in Social Work at the University of New South Wales, related to children’s perspectives family dispute resolution. Amelia completed her Bachelor of Social Work at UNSW and has worked in various clinical roles with children and families. Amelia also works as a casual academic, teaching in social policy and socio-legal courses in the Undergraduate Social Work program as well as summer and winter courses at UNSW.

Jon Graham (Presenter), Institute of Specialist Dispute Resolution
Jon is a nationally accredited mediator, a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and clinical supervisor of mediation practice. Jon is the Clinical Director of the Institute of Specialist Dispute Resolution, and in this role he trains and supervises mediators as well as engaging in clinical practice with complex family mediation and workplace conflicts. Jon lectures in mediation-related courses at law colleges across Australia and has worked with government, commercial and not-for-profit organisations in the development of dispute resolution programs. Jon was recently awarded a Churchill Fellowship to investigate family violence and non-court-based post-separation matters.