The digital divide and remote service delivery

The digital divide and remote service delivery

Jo Barraket , Annette Michaux and Kathryn Bannister
24 February 2021

This webinar explored the digital divide and its impact on the remote delivery of child, family and community welfare services.

Single mother desperately looking for a job on her laptop

This webinar was held on Wednesday, 24 February 2021. Please post your questions and comments below.

A full recording of the webinar and related resources, including slides, audio and a transcript, will be published soon. Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive a notification when these resources are available.

COVID-19 has produced increasing demands on many child, family and community welfare services, including mental health and domestic violence. At the same time, due to restrictions, services have needed to shift to remote service delivery, which has highlighted inequities in community levels of digital access and literacy. Many service providers have created innovative solutions to continue supporting their clients and community.

Drawing on some of these experiences and the research evidence, this webinar explored:

  • The ‘digital divide’ and which population groups are most at risk of digital exclusion, and why
  • The challenges of operating when both clients and service providers are impacted by digital exclusion
  • Innovative solutions and practical considerations for ongoing remote service delivery.

This webinar is of interest to professionals working in domestic and family violence, mental health, child protection, out-of-home care and other social services.

Related resources

  • Telehealth guidelines
    • Emerging Minds: A practical guide for practitioners working with children and families through telehealth.
    • Parenting Research Centre: Telepractice guidelines for practitioners working in parental support.
  • Digital Inclusion Index
    This report, produced by Telstra in collaboration with Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University and RMIT, describes the digital inclusion index, which measures the extent of Australia’s online participation.
  • Digital Nation Australia
    This infographic by Good Things Foundation Australia showcases the digital inclusion landscape in Australia.
  • When home becomes the workplace
    This paper, produced by Monash University, describes the impact of remote service delivery on both practitioners and clients in the domestic violence sector.
  • COVID-19 and early intervention
    This report, published by the Early Intervention Foundation, explores the evidence, challenges and risks associated with virtual service delivery methods in early intervention.
  • Online family work
    This report by FAMS describes the NSW response to online family work. It explores the results of several conversations with workers and CEOs of organisations working with children, young people and families since the government implemented social distancing rules.
  • Be Connected: Every Australian online
    This website provides practical resources to share with clients to improve digital literacy.
  • Telepractice and telehealth: Literature review
    This literature review by Outcomes Practice Evidence Network (OPEN), Child and Family Services explores the existing research on telepractice and telehealth.

Featured image: © GettyImages/Mladen_Kostic

About the presenters

Jo Barraket

Jo Barraket is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne and Swinburne University of Technology. She has research interests in the social economy and the socio-political effects of online technologies. Jo is a senior member of the Australian Digital Inclusion Index team, delivered in partnership with colleagues from RMIT and Telstra. She also has a long-term interest in the use of online technologies by not-for-profit and social economy organisations. Jo has led more than $10 million in funded research and is the author of around 80 publications in her areas of expertise.

Annette Michaux

Annette is Director of Policy and Practice at the Parenting Research Centre, an organisation dedicated to finding evidence-based solutions to support families in their parenting. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Annette has been leading a range of PRC collaborations with community and government agencies to improve resources for telepractice, so practitioners are able to provide quality, accessible services remotely.

She is passionate about using evidence to improve practices that contribute to a society where children and their families can thrive. Annette has held senior positions in government and non-government organisations for over 20 years and is a Board Member of Families Australia, the peak body for Australia’s child and family services.

Kathryn Bannister

Kathryn Bannister is currently the Communities for Children (CfC) Team Leader at Australian Red Cross in Darwin. As a DSS CfC Facilitating Partner, Red Cross funds CfC activities in the communities of Palmerston, a satellite city of Darwin, and on the Tiwi Islands, just 80 kilometres over the Arafura Sea from Darwin.

Kathy has worked in community-based services as well as the Australian Public Service for over the past 36 years in the Northern Territory. As a school teacher early in her career, she taught English as a Second Language with First Nations peoples speaking vernacular first languages. Kathy is passionate about equity and the opening up of opportunities for First Nations peoples to maintain their languages and cultures as well as be an important part of the social and economic fabric of the Northern Territory and Australia.


Great webinar and really highlighted the advancement of digital technology as well as our reliance on it, yet digital divide exists not just on access, affordability and skills on an individual level but also on NGOs and their workers especially those smaller agencies which's a concern. That said, it's great to see examples of how we can harness digital technology to overcome challenges such as geographical distance, time, space and limited resources. There's also question on data privacy. I was gonna ask the panel on their thoughts on engaging people from non-English speaking communities but Jo's comment on co-design a good start. Indeed far too often those who're disadvantaged can become invisible and disempowered. With technology at the cusp of integrating into not just our everyday lives but also ourselves, I'm wondering the ethics of it and the future of our workforce, perhaps a question for the presenters. Thank you once again for hosting this important webinar.
Yee Man Louie

Add a question or comment