This year, we’re celebrating our 70th anniversary.
Since our beginnings in 1952 as the Marriage Guidance Council of WA, we have been supporting people to navigate life’s challenges.
Take at look back at our journey over the years – from developing the first integrated service for domestic violence in WA, to launching our first Aboriginal specific service, and extending our mental health and specialist support services to ensure no one in the community is left behind.
Relationships Australia WA staff share what it means to work for an organisation that has been providing relationship support services in Western Australia for over 70 years.
The Marriage Guidance Council of Western Australia was launched to support soldiers returning from World War II, facing relationship difficulties.
The council’s 10th anniversary. The first decade of the Marriage Guidance Council of Western Australia was, in simple terms, a time of reinforcing vows that spouses had made in church, which is where the great majority of marriages were celebrated.
During this period, there was significant diversification in the services the Council delivered. Formal mediation became a standard service alongside counselling. Relationships education was also growing in popularity.
Reflecting the broader scope of our work and changing needs and family choices, the council renamed to Relationships Australia Western Australia.
Relationship Australia WA’s first counselling service for children who were secondary victims of family and domestic violence was established to help keep families and children safe.
In response to increasing separations in WA, Relationships Australia WA established the Child Contact Centre, a best-practice program that aimed to reduce tension during handovers of children between separated parents.
The WA Family Law Pathways Network was launched in response to an identified gap in family law services. National networks were a key component of the family law system, assisting to implement Government policy, by enhancing collaboration to better support separated and separating families.
We developed a new model of working with families where violence has occurred, known as the Family Abuse Integrated Response (FAIR). It is the first domestic violence service in WA to integrate services for men, women and children.
Relationship Education grew substantially during this period. In addition, Family Relationship Centres were developed in response to Family Law Reforms requiring parents to attend family dispute resolution.
Our first Aboriginal specific service, Moorditj Yarning, was established. Kidcare later followed helping young people affected by family violence in the Albany region, with support extending to the Katanning and Tambellup communities.
Our first Family Relationships Centre opened in the Perth CBD and Bunbury, with outreach to the South-West and Great Southern regions. The centres provide a place for families to seek assistance to strengthen their families or to commence family dispute resolution.
The Family Mental Health Support Service, now called 4families, was launched in Kwinana as one of 13 pilot services in Australia. It focuses on prevention and early intervention by addressing issues that affect the mental and emotional well-being of children and young people.
Djinda Service launched, providing advocacy and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children in the Perth metropolitan area who have experienced family violence or sexual assault. Djinda is a Noongar word meaning ‘star’.
Acknowledging the need for continued support for Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants, the Find & Connect program was funded. The service provides counselling, support and assistance with records and history, and drop-in centre Lantern’s House in Belmont, named by the clients to represent the light at the end of a dark tunnel.
Mental health services expanded in the south of WA with the opening of 4families in Albany, Bunbury, Busselton, Mandurah and Manjimup.
In addition, Relationships Australia WA was appointed lead agency for headspace Bunbury.
Services to help improve children’s wellbeing by supporting the capacity of those in a parenting role led to the development of the 4Dads service, providing early intervention support to fathers in the Mandurah and Pinjarra regions.
The Forced Adoption Support Service launched to provide support for individual and families in WA affected by forced adoption prior to 1990. The impacts of forced adoption are wide ranging and can extend beyond mothers, fathers, adopted persons and family members.
Our reach was extended with the implementation of a pilot program aimed at improving the well-being of families with ageing-related relationship issues.
This successful pilot led to the development of the Peel Senior Relationship Service offering support to families affected by Elder Abuse.
The Legally Assisted and Culturally Appropriate FDR program was established, offering culturally sensitive service support through our Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) program.
Expansion into Busselton included a new headspace satellite plus a Relationships Australia WA location, offering education and counselling to families, couples and individuals through several specialist programs.
The Counselling and Support for People Affected by the Disability Royal Commission service was launched providing support for people affected by the Royal Commission. It provides free, independent and confidential counselling to support people with disability, carers and support workers.
headspace Margaret River was opened providing a vital service for young people, allowing more people across the South-West region to access the support closer to home.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw an increased demand for support services. In response online workshops and courses were launched. These online services are ongoing, providing education and counselling support to anyone living in WA.
Today we have over 300 staff across 24 locations, supporting almost 20,000 individuals, couples and families throughout Western Australia through times of challenge and change.
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Relationships Australia WA acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land and waters on which we live and work, and pays our respects to Elders past, present and future for they carry the cultural wisdom, the stories, the traditions and dreaming. With a commitment to reconciliation, we acknowledge the ongoing impact of past policies and practices, and commit our endeavours to creating a just society and sector that celebrates the ongoing resilience and self-determination of our first peoples and communities.