Children's Voices and Family Justice – Time for Change

FLRN Voice of the Child Project - 4 July 2023

Article 12 of the UNCRC gives children the right to express their views, feelings and wishes freely in matters affecting their lives and for those views to be taken seriously. Yet, research in England and Wales and Australia has revealed that this is not a reality for children in private family law proceedings in court, with even greater concerns about whether their voices are heard in out-of-court family justice processes.

This workshop, held at the University of Birmingham's Exchange building in Birmingham city centre, aimed to promote discussion and consider the further research needed to achieve meaningful change, whether through improved practice, process or legislative reform, to make hearing and listening to children’s voices a reality when parents separate.

By bringing together academics, family practitioners and judges, as well as children and young people themselves, the workshop considered the current situation in England and Wales, the position in Australia, and what each jurisdiction can learn from the other to pave the road to reform.


  • Australian Panel (led by Dr Georgina Dimopoulos, Southern Cross University). This panel included Judge Alex Harland of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia - Division 2, Mary Brindley, Principal of Family Relief Mediation and Shaya Lewis-Dermody, Director of The Family Law Project and Independent Children’s Lawyer, and included participation by young people with lived experience of Australia’s family law system. 
  • BREAK, beginning of English panels 
  • Valuing children’s voices: Why this is important, and what difference has it made elsewhere? (Professor Helen Stalford, University of Liverpool) 
  • Children in court in England and Wales – a conversation between young people and HHJ Sybil Thomas (Designated Family Judge – Birmingham) 
  • LUNCH 
  • Evidencing the value of children’s voices in mediation: Benefits and barriers (Professor Anne Barlow & Dr Jan Ewing, University of Exeter) 
  • Children panel – Children’s perspectives, including members of the Family Justice Young People’s Board 
  • BREAK, return to Australian perspectives 
  • Ways in which Australia has attempted to include the voice of the child and some of the barriers that remain (Dr Georgina Dimopoulos, Southern Cross University) 
  • Recorded segment from Justice Altobelli of the Federal Circuit and Court of Australia – Division


Supported by:University of Liverpool logoa

Southern Cross University logoUniversity of Exeter logo