Innovation Timeline

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Family Life is an independent community organisation with a strong history of addressing community needs through innovation, delivering measurable social change and impact.

Innovation Timeline

Home > About Us

Family Life is an independent community organisation with a strong history of addressing community needs through innovation. From inception in 1970, Family Life has strived to be a centre of research, knowledge and innovation, delivering measurable social change and impact.

Showcased below is a chronological list of particularly important, innovative or significant events in Family Life’s history of providing services for the improved outcomes for families, children and young people:

In September 2018 Family Life was announced in the Top Ten innovators in the GiveEasy Not-for-Profit Innovation Index’s in Australia. Organisations in the Index are measured according to their capacity to develop and deliver innovation according to eight key categories: technology, internal collaboration, external collaboration, innovation focus, openness of culture/vision, organisational velocity, rewards/recognition and stakeholder centricity.
View the GiveEasy 2018 Innovation Index
Developed by Family Life, the pilot program Catch Up is a prevention and early intervention response to women’s increased vulnerability, including the risk of homelessness, as they age. Catch Up is bringing together the wisdom and life experiences of our volunteer workforce, with research undertaken by Family Life’s ROME (Research, Outcomes, Measurement & Evaluation) team, to identify better strategies for raising awareness and connecting women in to the resources they need to take greater control of their future. Watch our latest video
Here4U is a family violence bystander intervention program that trains volunteer participants to recognise when family violence may be occurring and respond appropriately. The program coaches and empowers participants to be leaders in their communities, responding to attitudes perpetuating violence against women. For more information about the Here4U Program click here
Reboot is a behaviour modification program that has been co-designed by Family Life and TaskForce to counteract increasing incidents of adolescent family violence. A primary focus is to positively change the trajectory of the lives of young people who have used violence in the home.Reboot positions itself as a proactive family preservation, court diversion option and alternate justice response.
For more information about the Reboot Program click here
Building on a strong history of supporting local families, Family Life launched Heartlinks, a Social Enterprise business of Family Life, providing relationship education and counselling services.
In 2016 Family Life expanded service expertise to include the Neurosequential Model of Education (NME) for assisting teachers and schools to understand the impact of trauma on children’s development. A specialist Family Life trauma team now work across key programs as part of our Hopscotch project to implement specialist, evidence and trauma informed assessments and interventions with clients.
In May 2016 Family Life was announced in the Top Ten Not-for-Profits in Australia, as measured for Innovation Performance in a landmark study launched by Australia Post and Westpac. The GiveEasy 2016 Innovation Index was generated from a survey of more than 1,100 Not-for-Profits organisations.View the GiveEasy 2016 Innovation Index
Family Life developed trauma informed and trauma specific services with site certification in NMT. Since 2014 Family Life have developed trauma informed and trauma specific services with training and ‘site certification’ in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) developed by Dr Bruce Perry, through The ChildTrauma Academy (CTA), USA. The Neurosequential Model is a developmentally-informed, biologically-respectful approach to working with at-risk children.
SHINE website for children was launched in September 2014 to support SHINE Childrens’ Mental Health project.
Through bright illustrations and child-friendly language, each page is designed to capture and hold the attention of at-risk kids. Pages for sadness, anxiety, stress, anger and happiness will expand their vocabulary, provide them with useful information, allow them to download fact sheets and give them a variety of ways in which to contact SHINE and other relevant mental health services.
To visit the SHINE website, click here
Bayside Children’s Contact Service Social Enterprise opened February 2014. Set in one of Family Life’s Community House’s, Bayside Children Contact Service is a home-like environment which is available to families for as long as they need support. (there is no maximum number of visits).To read more, click here.
  • Family Life presented at the inaugural White Ribbon International Conference: Global to Local preventing men’s violence against women. Family Life’s presentation was titled ‘The Role of Community Agencies in Preventing Male Family Violence and Treating Women and Children’.
  • CEO of Family Life presented at the Measuring Social Outcomes Conference – 15 October 2013 ‘Big Idea’ – A Community Impact Statement, in Measuring Social Outcomes – An evaluation journey a presentation that builds the business case for investment in programs that strengthen families.
  • Family Life’s SHINE Children’s Mental Health paper published in Developing Practice.
    The Family Life SHINE Children’s Mental Health Pilot Project has been shown to be an effective community based mental health service for children, young people and families. By delivering a mental health program using the existing Family Life family support service infrastructure, and local community and service relationships, government investment has been maximised to deliver expanded cost effective benefits.
  • McCoy, A. & Morehouse, K. (2013) What about Children’s Mental Health? Evaluation findings from the Family Life SHINE Children’s Mental Health Pilot Project, Developing Practice, 34, pp. 81-89
  • Jo Cavanagh, CEO of Family Life, profiled by Foresters Community Finance in their case study on community asset building.
  • Jo Cavanagh and Grant Douglas, then President of Family Life, were congratulated in Hansard for their good work, by Mr Murray Thompson MLA, Member for Sandringham.
  • Family Life presented at the Queen Elizabeth Centre 6th International Conference on our Community Bub’s program and the whole-of-community approach used to achieve desired outcomes, including increased parenting efficacy.
  • Family Life presented at the Family & Relationship Services Australia conference, showcasing an innovative methodology for measuring the impact of family-strengthening programs which help prevent high-cost child abuse and neglect. The workshop was presented in partnership with Centacare Broken Bay, NSW and Anglicare WA.
  • Family Life SHINE was asked to be a panellist for Mental Health Forum “What is Mental Health versus Mental Illness”, providing the opportunity for professionals to explore the joys and challenges of supporting clients who has a mental health illness.
  • Family Life presented at the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare Research Synopsis, held in July 2012. The presentation featured Family Life’s Creating Capable Leaders program to show how partnering with vulnerable communities achieves positive outcomes for children and families.
  • Jo Cavanagh presented at the Bethany (community services organisation) Annual General Meeting to discuss pertinent social issues in the context of measuring Social Return on Investment and break-even analysis.
  • Family Life Community Education Worker acted as Master of Ceremonies for the City of Kingston’s Kind 2 Mind Mental Health Initiative, for over 600 school students.
  • Family Life presented at the Australian Psychological Society National Conference, to the Child and Family interest group. The presentation outlined preventative mental health and early intervention strategies employed by the Family Life SHINE program.
  • Published the Creating Capable Communities (CCC) toolkit. A resource to support other agencies wishing to implement the Family Life proven Creating Capable Communities model for strengthening families and communities.

2010 – Milestones

  • The Australian Law Reform Commission cited Family Life in the publication titled ’17. Children’s involvement in the care and protection system’. To view the article, click here.
  • Family Life staff presented the Mens Behaviour Change Program (known at the time as MATES) to local TAFE colleges, as a model for male support groups.

2009 – Milestones

  • Family Life presented at the Child & Adolescent Area Mental Health Services (CAMHS) conference on mental health, early intervention and resilience.
  • Judith Latta, Director of Community Relations, was invited to present at the Social Enterprise Alliance conference in New Orleans, USA, on Family Life’s best-practice volunteer program.

2008 – Milestones

  • Jo Cavanagh was cited in the paper titled ‘Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia’, published by the Australian Childhood Foundation, Monash University and Access Economics.
  • Family Life began delivering the ‘Friends for Life’ program, a 10 week preventative mental health program focusing on anxiety and depression prevention. In 2011 Family Life then obtained the license to train others as facilitators. Research shows that children display higher resilience for up to 7 years after completing the program.

2007 – Milestones

  • Jo Cavanagh represented Family Life as a guest speaker at the ‘Future Melbourne’ conference titled Sustaining Melbourne’s Prosperity.
  • Dr Jenny Higgins (National Child Protection Clearinghouse) and Robyn Parker (Australian Family Relationships Clearinghouse), from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, visited Family Life to learn more about Family Life’s work. Subsequently, a services profile was written by Dr Jenny Higgins from the National Child Protection Clearinghouse, discussing Family Life’s Creating Capable Communities program and other programs offered by Family Life.

Click here to view the program spotlight.

2006 – Milestones

  • Jo Cavanagh was cited in the CREATE Foundation Report on Education.
  • Family Life presented at the National Child Protection Forum, discussing a holistic integrated community model for preventing abuse and promoting wellbeing and social and economic empowerment.
  • Jo Cavanagh was invited to the Social Enterprise Alliance Gathering in Atlanta, USA, to deliver a presentation on both theory and practical techniques for establishing and measuring the success of a social enterprise.
  • Jo Cavanagh revised a paper (written originally in 2001) on the Community Centered Family Support Model to facilitated change and integrate work at all levels of prevention, treatment and maintenance.

2005 – Milestones

  • Family Life advised and supported workplaces seeking to introduce evidence-based workplace models for preventing family violence.
  • Family Life presented at the Father Inclusive Practice National Forum on listening and working with men, discussing the broad range of services for men including community education, counselling, specialised group work and innovative outreach services.
  • At the Families and Community Services conference, Family Life presented about the innovative Creating Capable Communities program, focusing on helping people to feel part of the community through contribution and participation.
  • A discussion about Family Life’s Creating Capable Communities program was published in Stronger Families Learning Exchange Bulletin, no. 7, Spring 2005, pp.34-36.
  • Family Life presented at the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health National Conference in Brisbane, on the new Community Bub’s program as a model for health infants and families. Click here to view the presentation.

2004 – Milestones

  • Jo Cavanagh contributed to the ground-breaking publication titled ‘Family Violence IS a Workplace Issue: Workplace Models to Prevent Family Violence, Victorian Community Council Against Violence”.
  • Family Life’s Knock Out Violence program, an anti-bullying and youth leadership program for school students, was evaluated by Dr Helen McGrath.

2003 – Milestones

  • Anglicare cited Jo Cavanagh in their Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care.

2002 – Milestones

  • A paper was presented as part of the Social Policy Services – Government and Human Relations, to discuss the central role of a caring community, in order to deliver short term, long term and intergenerational change.

2001 – Milestones

  • Jo Cavanagh made a significant contribution to Mercy Family Service’s discussion paper titled Building Blocks for a Quality Care Framework in Out-of-Home Care.

2000 – Report published by the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House.

  • The report co-written by Jo Cavanagh and colleagues Hewitt and Anderson, which evaluated Family Life’s family violence services, was published by the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House.


1999 – Australian Heads of Government Award

  • Family Life received an Australian Heads of Government Award for the project “Families and Violence: a Holistic, Family Centred Approach”.

1999 – Report published – Supporting children and young people affected by family violence

  • Jo Cavanagh, in collaboration with Lesley Hewitt and Diana Anderson, prepared a program report titled ‘Supporting children and young people affected by family violence : Southern Family Life STAR (Safe Talk About Rights)’.

1998 – Research paper published – ‘A Whole of Family Response to Family Violence

  • On behalf of Family Life, Jo Cavanagh presented her research paper titled: ‘A Whole of Family Response to Family Violence : A new program for family violence: policy change and practice integrated with program research’ at the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ conference. The paper detailed Family Life’s innovative community-based approach which acknowledges that a range of integrated interventions is needed to address the interrelated issues of family violence, conflict and abuse.Click here to download the paper.


1998 – Research paper published – “Through the eyes of children and families in violence”

  • Paper written by Jo Cavanagh and Lesley Hewitt, “Through the eyes of children and families in violence”.

Click here to download the paper.

1986 – Family Life started a Men’s Behaviour Change program called MATES

  • Family Life is a pioneer in the family violence sector, leading the way in male family violence prevention services. Family Life’s Men’s Behavioural Change Program began in 1986 with the MATES (‘Moving Ahead to Establish Changes’) group for men who use violence towards women and children. No to Violence (NTV) accredited male and female co-facilitators model a respectful co-facilitation relationship. A key aim of the group is for the participants to achieve positive sustained changes in behaviour and attitudes via increasing responsibility and accountability.


1982 – “For Love Not Money”, a handbook for volunteers and volunteer coordinators published

  • Founding Director, Margaret McGregor OAM, founding staff and volunteers, Shirley James, Joan Gerrand and Doris Cater, wrote the book “For Love Not Money”, a handbook for volunteers and volunteer coordinators.

Click here to learn more about the important early years of Family Life and about Family Life’s history

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