Published: 30 October, 2023

Media release: Indigenous families in the Newcastle region to benefit from specialist services dedicated to assisting families navigate the family law system

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1 and Division 2) (the Courts) are committed to providing safe, fair, efficient and relevant access to justice for all Australians. As part of that commitment the Courts are pleased to announce the commencement of a Specialist Indigenous List operating from the Newcastle registry in NSW from 30 October 2023.

The list has been named Wonai Nganka Kanan which means “children/child first” in the local Awabakal language.

A welcome to country and traditional ceremony commenced proceedings today at an event hosted by the Courts in Newcastle to mark the commencement of the Specialist Indigenous List, and to acknowledge the work undertaken in Newcastle and wider NSW for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families who may be involved in family law proceedings.

Speaking from Newcastle at the event today, Chief Justice Alstergren AO said that the commencement of the Specialist Indigenous List in Newcastle demonstrates the Courts’ practical commitment to improving access to justice for First Nations Australians. It forms part of our ongoing commitment to deliver a safe, fair, efficient and relevant system of justice for all Australians we must always consider the needs of our First Nations people and ensure we do all we can to gain their confidence and trust.

“While there is more work to be done, especially considering the wide geographic area that this registry covers, today marks an opportunity to show our ongoing commitment to listen and learn from the local community about ways that we can be innovative and responsive, and to deliver tangible and localised action that will better meet the particular needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parties and children that live in this area of regional NSW.   

“The Courts’ Indigenous Family Liaison Officers (IFLOs) play an important role in delivering that commitment by working closely with communities and facilitating the effective running of Specialist Indigenous Lists nationally. The Courts’ IFLO based in Newcastle supports Indigenous litigants to remain engaged throughout the court case management process and to work with community organisations who can assist those families. Importantly, our IFLO undertakes a vital role in maintaining cultural connections, building and maintaining relationships between the Courts, communities, support services and local cultural organisations,” Chief Justice Alstergren said.

As the Newcastle Indigenous Family Liaison Officer, Angela’s role is to walk alongside Indigenous families and assist in navigating the family law system whilst maintaining cultural identity through connection to family, local community and culturally appropriate services.

“My focus is to empower families to feel heard and understood when coming to the Courts, strengthening the perspective that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families do play a part in the decision-making process for our children. A key part of this, is building and maintaining the relationship between the Courts and external culturally appropriate organisations and services.

“The best possible outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families occur when they are assisted by culturally appropriate and safe support systems that have a clear understanding that it cannot be a “one size fits all” approach for our families,” Angela said.

The Courts’ Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar Mr David Pringle said that the Courts are incredibly proud to launch the Newcastle Specialist Indigenous List and commended the efforts of Angela, our local IFLO, and everyone who has been involved in establishing this important initiative.

“The Courts will continue to devote time and resources towards the expansion of not just our Specialist Indigenous Lists nationally, but also our IFLO cohort and other important initiatives more broadly,” Mr Pringle said.

Further information:

  • The Newcastle Specialist Indigenous List will be led by Senior Judicial Registrar Amy McGowan in consultation with Judge Costigan and other local Judges and draws upon the design and success of the Specialist Indigenous list that commenced in Lismore earlier in the year.
  • It features a modified case management process tailored to enhance access to the Courts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander litigants.
  • The List will include suitable cases that have been filed in the Newcastle registry, which covers a large catchment area of regional NSW.
  • Specialised support services will be available on the day of the List.
  • The local IFLO is available to support families in the lead up to, and on, the hearing day. They can assist parties to understand and engage with court processes and connect them to legal and other support services. They can also assist in cases involving Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples for some other court events, such as mediations and appointments with Court Child Experts.

There are currently 11 IFLOs based across the following locations:
Alice Springs (1)
Adelaide (2)
Brisbane (2)
Cairns (1)
Lismore (1)
Newcastle (1)
Parramatta/Sydney (2)
Townsville (1)