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ISS Australia’s Patron the Hon Alastair Nicholson on ABC’s Lateline

The Chair of Children’s Rights International, former Chief Justice of the Family Court and ISS Australia’s Patron, the Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC was interviewed on ABC-TV’s Lateline program on 18 August 2014.

Alastair Nicholson spoke on the Federal Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Cambodia, noting the country was ill-equipped to receive vulnerable people from Australia, particularly in the case of unaccompanied minors whose protection and care could not be guaranteed. He also commented on the conflict of interest under current legislation in which the Minister for Immigration is at the same time the legal guardian for any children entering Australia as unaccompanied minors and the Minister responsible for decisions to detain these children in Australia or send them overseas.

Watch the interview (or read the transcript) here.

News from ISS network’s International Council meeting

The ISS international network held its biennial International Council (IC) meeting in Cascais, Portugal from 20-22 May, 2014. The meeting was well attended and saw the election of Mr Doug Lewis CBE (UK), formerly Chair of CFAB (ISS UK) and Chair of ISS’s Governing Board, to the position of International President for a four-year term. The IC also approved changes to ISS’s Statutes, providing for simultaneous International President and Governing Board (GB) Chair roles and the election of two independent experts to the GB as full voting members. ISS Bulgaria and ISS Romania were ratified as the two newest Branches of the network.

Elections were also held for membership of the GB (the inaugural Board under ISS’s new Statutes, introduced in 2010, stood down at this IC). Elected representatives of Branch / Bureau governance bodies were: Mr CP Ho (ISS Hong Kong, re-elected to a second term); Mr Bob Miles (ISS USA); Ms Connie Nxumalo (ISS South Africa); and Mr Paul Peter (ISS Switzerland). Mr Arnaud Apffel (Switzerland) was re-elected to the position of International Treasurer. All GB members will serve a four-year term. In the first GB meeting following the IC meeting, Mr Bob Miles was elected to the role of GB Chair.

The location of the next IC meeting is traditionally decided by the current IC. ISS Australia expressed its interest in hosting the 2016 IC meeting in Melbourne, and this was unanimously agreed by IC members present in Cascais. ISS Australia now looks forward to welcoming network delegates from around the world to Melbourne in 2016.

The ISS Professional Advisory Committee (PAC, which brings together the Directors and equivalent level positions of the network’s Branches and Bureaus) also met in Cascais prior to the IC. Ms Julie Rosicky (ISS USA) stood down as PAC Chair after completing the maximum 2 two-year terms in the role. ISS Australia’s Executive Director Fionn Skiotis was elected as the new Chair, and takes up a place on the new GB in accordance with ISS’s Statutes. Mr Hans van Hooff was re-elected to a further two-year term as PAC Vice-Chair.

ISS Australia thanks all those retiring from leadership positions in the network, congratulates those elected or re-elected to such positions, and commends the international network on the very positive and productive meetings held in Cascais.

Further developments in the “Home Safe Home” project

Following the launch of our “Home Safe Home” research report on children migrating to Australia for kinship care, in May 2013, ISS Australia is now continuing the project’s work by examining implementation of the report’s recommendations.

In particular we’re delighted to be discussing these issues with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, in the context of the DIBP’s review of family-related visas including the Orphan Relative visa, which was the focus of the ‘Home Safe Home” report. Further updates will be provided in due course.

The “Home Safe Home” project was funded by the Barr Family Foundation.

Strategic Plan for ISS International Network

The ISS International Network is in the process of finalising its new four year (2014-2018) strategic plan after lengthy consultation throughout the network. The plan will be a critical guiding document for all network members, including ISS Australia.

ISS Australia will soon begin developing our next three year (2014/15-2016/17) strategic plan, in a consultation and planning process conducted in the first half of 2014.

Run Fionn Run!

ISS Australia’s Executive Director, Fionn Skiotis, completed his half-marathon challenge on 21 July, in a time of 2 hours and 2 secs (see here).

Unfortunately Fionn is still short of his fundraising target of $3,500, which he hopes will kick off ISS Australia’s 2013 Building Appeal. The Building Appeal has been made necessary by unexpected repair costs at ISS Australia’s National Office of over $80,000.

Can you help Fionn achieve his fundraising goal? If you’d like to donate, please go here or alternatively call 1300 657 843. All donations over $2 are tax deductible.

Many thanks to all those who have donated and shown their support!

ISS Australia staff on Australian Network News

ISS Australia’s National Services Manager, Helen Freris, and Manager, Legal Service, Ann Wollner, were interviewed recently for a story on Australian Network News on international parental child abduction or IPCA. The story, Torn Apart: silent victims of parental child abduction can be viewed in full below.


ISS presence re-established in Italy

The international network of ISS was recently successful in re-establishing a network presence in Italy. Since October 2012, ISS casework matters in Italy have been handled by Defence for Children International – Italy, the Italian Section of the international child rights advocacy network Defence for Children International or DCI. ISS Australia warmly welcomes the involvement of DCI-Italy in the ISS network, particularly as ISS Australia has very good relations with the Australian Section of DCI, DCI Australia. The ISS German Branch played a key role in re-establishing ISS’s presence in Italy.

ISS International Council and Conference

The 2012 meeting of the International Council of the ISS network (its supreme decision-making body which meets every second year) was held in Banff, Canada from 20 – 25 May 2012.

The meeting coincided with a conference on international social work sponsored by International Social Service, the University of Calgary (Canada) and the University of Maryland (USA). The theme of the conference was “The Growing Wave of Human Migration: Its Impact on the Planning Design and Delivery of our Social Programs”.

Meetings of ISS’s Governing Board and Professional Advisory Committee (made up of the Directors of all ISS branches and bureaus) also took place during the week.

ISS Australia was represented at the International Council meeting by its President, Diana Batzias, and Executive Director, Fionn Skiotis. Our Manager, NSW Office Damon Martin also presented a paper at the conference: The Right to Information for Donor Conceived People: Lessons Learnt from Adoption (download here).

ISS Australia’s new International Family Mediation service launched

ISS Australia’s latest addition to its suite of international social work services, an International Family Mediation service, was officially launched on 14 May 2012 in Melbourne by the Honorable Justice Victoria Bennett of the Family Court of Australia. Her Honor spoke of ISS Australia’s strong expertise and experience in the handling of sensitive cross-border family matters including cases of international parental child abduction, and noted that mediation may provide an effective, non-judicial solution in some cases dealt with by the Court under the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

The new IFM service is now operational, with several of ISS Australia’s qualified social workers accredited as Family Dispute Resolution Practitioners (FDRPs) under the Australian family law system administered by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department. ISS’s IFM services are provided on a fee-for-service basis. For more on what this new service can provide, please go here.

Senate Committee inquiry into international parental child abduction: report released

The report of the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee on international parental child abduction was tabled in the Senate chamber on 31 October 2011. A copy of the report can be downloaded here.

The report makes 11 recommendations, including Recommendation 8: “The committee recommends that the Australia Government should, in consultation with relevant stakeholders such as International Social Service Australia, investigate strategies to improve the availability and coordinated delivery of support services in international parental child abduction cases, including post-return services”.

The report extensively cites ISS Australia’s written submission and testimony provided by ISS Australia’s National Services Manager, Helen Freris (see below).

ISS Australia testifies at Senate inquiry into international child abduction

ISS Australia’s National Services Manager, Helen Freris, recently testified before the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee of the Australian Senate in its inquiry into international child abduction. The Committee heard from a wide range of individual, NGO and government witnesses on 26 August 2011.

ISS Australia also made a written submission to the Senate inquiry, which can be downloaded here.

Helen Freris on SBS Radio

ISS Australia’s National Services Manager, Helen Freris, recently spoke on SBS Radio on proposed legislative changes aimed at strengthening provisions prohibiting a parent taking or retaining a child overseas without the permission of the other parent (international parental child abduction). The proposed changes were announced recently by Commonwealth Attorney-General the Hon. Robert McClelland.

A podcast of the broadcast can be accessed or downloaded from SBS Radio’s website at www.sbs.com.au/podcasts/Podcasts/radionews/episode/185727/New-laws-target-child-abduction.