Relationships Australia’s Elder Relationship Services trial

Harnessing workhorses or herding cats? Collaborating across the Relationships Australia Federation to research what matters most to families
Friday 27 July, 1215 – 1235


Paula Mance
Relationships Australia

The health, wealth and shape of Australian families are changing. Australians are living longer than ever, often with chronic conditions that may have previously killed them. Older Australians have more of the nation’s wealth and home ownership, yet fewer children to “leave it all to”. Families are also increasing in complexity and living farther apart physically and possibly emotionally. So when issues arise in families with an older member, clearly “business as usual” at family and relationships services may not be enough.
This is why Relationships Australia developed and rolled out a 12-month national trial of a family relationship service targeted at families with problems related to the ageing of a family member. The service aimed to prevent or resolve family conflict and help families to have difficult conversations in ways that promote the interests, rights and safety of family members.
Key inputs were specialised training delivered to highly experienced staff and national coordination. Main outputs for the 140 clients were information, referral, and where appropriate, a family meeting facilitated by trained counsellors and mediators.
Families typically presented with conflict over caring arrangements and housing, grief and estrangement, estate planning, family violence and elder abuse. Nevertheless, by way of outcomes, more than half of clients showed a clinically significant reduction in psychological distress.
The presentation also reports on findings on process issues in trialling a new service as it can be challenging to get a new national program working across four urban and two regional locations in different organisations in Australia.