Give children a bigger voice more of the time: Children’s and young people’s experiences of the family law system

Give children a bigger voice more of the time: Children’s and young people’s experiences of the family law system

Rachel Carson and Norma Williams

This webinar discussed recent research on young people’s experiences of the family law system and its implications for child-inclusive practice.


This webinar was held on Wednesday, 27 September 2018. 

A full recording of this webinar is available on our YouTube Channel.

The audio, transcript and presentation slides are available under Event Resources on this page.

A list of resources related to this topic will be available on our post-webinar forum.

A recent study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has highlighted the importance of listening to and supporting children and young people throughout the process of parental separation and their involvement in the family law system. 

Many children and young people who participated in the study reported a lack of communication from parents and family law services about the separation and the decision-making process, and reported feeling excluded from decisions that affected them, particularly in relation to parenting arrangements. The study findings highlight a need for more child-inclusive processes across the family law system. 

This webinar presented findings of the Children and young people in separated families study, which investigated the experiences and needs of young people whose parents had separated and had accessed the family law system. It discussed implications for policy and practice, with a focus on developing child-inclusive practices in the area of family dispute resolution and the family law system more generally. 

About the presenters

Rachel Carson

Dr Rachel Carson is a socio-legal researcher with expertise in family law and qualitative research about family law disputes. After practising as a family lawyer, Rachel worked as a researcher in family law at the Melbourne Law School (University of Melbourne) and was awarded a Melbourne Research Scholarship to undertake her PhD in this field of research at the University of Melbourne.


Since joining the Family Law and Family Violence team at the Australian Institute of Family Studies in June 2012, Rachel has worked on a range of projects, including the Independent Children’s Lawyer Study and the Evaluation of the 2012 Family Violence Amendments Project. Rachel was the lead researcher on the recently completed Children and Young People in Separated Families: Family Law System Experiences and Needs project, together with the Institute’s Direct Cross-examination in Family Law Matters Study.


Rachel has contributed to the Institute’s elder abuse scoping studies and is currently working on the Elder Abuse National Research - Strengthening the Evidence Base - Stage 1 research program commissioned by the Australian Government, Attorney-General’s Department.


Rachel is a consulting editor for the Family Law Review journal and has represented the Institute in various capacities, including as the AIFS observer on the Family Law Council, a body that provides policy advice on family law to the Commonwealth Attorney-General.

Norma Williams

Norma Williams has a professional practice, leadership and management background in children's and family services spanning over 30 years. This has included early childhood care and development, early childhood education, children's services resource and advisory programs, professional development and education and training. In addition, Norma has maintained a parallel career path in mediation and alternative and commercial dispute resolution.


The reforms to the Australian family law system in 2006 inspired Norma to join a newly established Family Relationship Centre in 2007. As a child-inclusive family dispute resolution practitioner and service delivery manager since that time, Norma has contributed significantly to the advancement of professional practice and evidenced through action research how integrated child-inclusive practice in family dispute resolution practice can be achieved.