The Voice of Parents
Families and Carers

Australia's parents, families and carers lack a strong voice in Australian public life. Crucial decisions by governments on policies shaping how we care for our families - children, the elderly, those with a disability- are usually made without the input or backing of parents and carers. These decisions are usually dominated by a world view  which reduces family values to a drive for increased workforce participation and increased formal care. But this is often not what most of us want. There is no serious discussion of realistic policies to ease the collision between work and family life, and to tailor services to fit what families really need.

On schools, or disability, or parental leave, the public discussion about families and carers is usually restricted to politicians, academics, and service providers. Often the only voice claiming to speak for families is the conservative Christian lobby through organisations like the Australian Family Association, but such groups do not ‘represent’ the diversity of contemporary Australian families. Because there is no inclusive and representative voice, too many of us are excluded from public debate on policies which profoundly affect our well being.

This project aims to develop a strong public voice for parents, families and carers. Participation is welcome from individual parents, families and carers and their support, advocacy and self-help groups.             

Click here to participate.

Click here to read our guiding principles.

A Council directs the work of this project. If you would like to join the Council please tack this box in the form below.

Council Members

The members of the Council are:


Jenny Shale, Head of Department of Social Justice, Loganlea State High School, QLD
Interests: Schools, youth support, disability, integrated service design
[photo: right]

Vice Presidents:

Aileen Ryan, Consultant, Hands Can Talk, NSW
Interests: Education, disability, parent advocacy

Peter Murphy, Communications, Adult Learning Australia, ACT
Interests: Fatherhood, single parents, adult learning, youth, social capital


Mary Beijerinck-Gooley, Convenor, Babybumps Support Group, NSW
Interests: Early intervention, child care, schools, support groups

Grace Bond, Murri Sisters Inc, QLD
Interests: Indigenous children women and families, child abuse, family violence

Arthur Chapman, Manager, Retirement by Design, NSW
Interests: Aged care, supports for independent living in senior years

Sandra Chilcott, Secretary, Foster Care Association, NSW
Interests: Early intervention, child care, disability, single parents

Margaret Cook, Convenor, Comic WA, Mental Health Consumer Consultant, WA
Interests: Mental health, children of parents with mental illness and disabilities

Nickie Flambouras, Advocacy Manager, Parent Council for Deaf Education, NSW
Interests: Disability, education, youth, creative advocacy

Suzette Gallagher AM, disability innovator, VIC
Interests: Disability, community inclusion, individualised funding

June Hintz, Founder, Make a Difference, QLD
Interests: Mental health, aged care, youth support, health care

Kelly Knick-Parish, Service Manager, ARAFMI Illawarra, NSW
Interests: Mental health, schools, service redesign

Sharon Lane, Co-ordinator, South West Respite Network, VIC
Interests: Parenting, respite, disability, regional and rural families

Jenni Mazlin-Law, Consumer Consultant, NSW Mental Health, NSW
Interests: Mental health, children of parents with a mental illness, health care

Sue Miers AM, Spokesperson National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, SA
Interests: Health care, disability, addictions, behavioural issues

Jane Pertile, Special education teacher, Vision Australia, VIC
Interests: Education, youth, single parents

Wendy Revell, Community Educator, Relationships Australia, QLD
Interests: Youth, addictions, gambling

Jessica Revill, Psychologist, St George Division of General Practice, NSW
Interests: Adolescents, disability, mental health, relationships

Jennifer Ribarovksi, Manager Childrens Services, City of Hurstville, NSW
Interests: Early intervention, child care, education, resourcing families

Jayne Rosevear, Real estate agent, VIC
Interests: Disability, housing, supported accommodation options

Aileen Solowiej, Communications Co-ordinator, Australian Catholic Women’s League, ACT
Interests: Child care, single parents, blended families

Melissa Stagg, Department of Communities, WA
Interests: Early intervention, child care, disability, family roles

Pat Sutton, Carer Consultant, Central North Adelaide Health Service, SA
Interests: Disability, mental health, schools, carers, support groups

Bronwyn Thoroughgood, Program Leader, Strengthening Families for Stronger Kids, NSW
Interests: Parenting, early intervention, disability

Guiding Principles


The Voice of Parents, Families and Carers


To be a national voice for parents, families and carers in Australian public life.


1. To represent and advocate for the interests of parents, families and cares as interests which are distinct from those of governments, service providers and charities;

2. To influence the development of public policy which enhances the rights, capacities, choices, and dignity of parents, families and carers;

3. To develop and promote innovative support and service delivery which empowers parents, families and carers, and builds our capacities and resources;

4. To aggregate the leverage and purchasing power of parents, families and carers in bargaining with suppliers of information, goods and services.


We will bring together parents, families and carers from many different sector areas which are usually treated as segmented fields. The following areas are our key ones because relational and familial issues are critically important to well-being in these areas, yet the voices of parents, families and carers in these fields are usually muted:

Early intervention and early years development
Child care
Education and schools
Mental illness
Learning difficulties
Behavioural issues
Youth support
Alcohol and drug issues
Indigenous communities
Sole and separated parents
Blended and step families
Chronic and acute illness
Senior years

Public Policy Principles

 1. Person-centred and family-centred arrangements should become the norm in all forms of social support, service delivery and social investment – systems and institutions should be tailored to meet the personalised needs of individuals and their families. The ‘one size fits all’ model should be thrown in the dustbin of history in practice as well as in rhetoric.

2.. Integrated whole-of-life arrangements should encompass all forms of social support and service delivery – individualised consolidations of funding from different programs, funding streams and jurisdictions should be introduced to enable these arrangements.

3. Empowerment of parents, families and carers to exercise enhanced choice and self-determination should be established as a guiding ethic in public policy.

Independence from Government

We wish to avoid the compromised position that many funded advocacy organisations find themselves in, where fear of losing government funding affects their willingness to act independently of government policy.

We will not accept government funding for the core functions of this national voice.


We want to develop innovative forms of participation by parents, families and carers in making our voice heard and exercising the maximum influence possible over our own lives. Streamlined structures, consolidated support resources, good use of online technology, and clarity of purpose are needed to make participation effective.

Further Information

Vern Hughes
PO Box 159 Yarraville Vic 3013
0425 722 890

Click here to participate.

 © Civil Society Australia 2015