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Mark Braes and Julua Hamel (ABC News/CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes)

Separated Broken Hill families now have a safe space to spend time as a group, thanks to CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes’ new children’s contact service. Source: ABC News.

CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes (CCWF) established the centre out of its Broken Hill office to provide an impartial place for children to see parents or extended family they do not live with.

CCWF’s portfolio leader for child contact services, Mark Braes, said not all separated families were able to interact unsupervised.

“Some [separated] people find it really difficult to be able to maintain cordial relationships and sometimes that means it’s very difficult for children to spend regular time with parents,” Mr Braes said.

“So, this space provides that opportunity in a way that’s going to be safe for everybody.”

It was senior children’s contact worker Julua Hamel, a retired family law solicitor, who originally identified that Broken Hill was unable to operate such a facility due to outdated location selection criteria.

“When I came to Broken Hill in 2020, I was horrified to find an area that was so isolated [and had] such a high level of domestic violence and other risk issues had no contact service,” Ms Hamel said.

She then engaged with federal MP Mark Coulton, Broken Hill City Council, and the local community to help change these criteria.

As a result, the federal Government provided about $2 million in funding last year to get the project underway.

According to Mr Braes, in addition to supervised contact visits, the space can also facilitate handovers of children from one parent to the other, meaning they do not have to meet in public places or the police station. Mr Braes said it is hoped that after a period of using the service, the separated parents would be able to have more positive interactions.


Far west NSW’s first children’s contact service for separated families opens at Wilcannia-Forbes (By Oliver Brown, Ben Loughran, and Greta Jackson, ABC News)