Our History

Relationships Australia was founded over 60 years ago, with the aim of providing support and advice to people experiencing difficulties in their marriages, during the social upheaval of the post war period.  At that stage, it was known as The Marriage Guidance Council.

Australia’s first Marriage Guidance Councils, relying heavily on the British model for keeping husbands and wives together through counselling and educative programs about marriage and family living,  were established in Sydney and Melbourne in 1948. Over the next few years the other States followed suit and by 1952 the national organisation had been established.

The original Marriage Guidance Council in WA, based in Havelock Street, West Perth, had strong involvement of professional men and women, and some Christian Churches.  It was set up with the intention of creating a community based organisation which offered services to the entire community, regardless of religious or other affiliations.   That intention has been honoured throughout and continues to be strongly upheld today.

In the 1950s moves to broaden the scope included the offer of five evening information sessions, Marriage for Moderns, for the general public. This series of “down-to-earth and practical talks given by experts”, held in the sober environment of Burt Hall, next to St George’s cathedral, included titles such as: 
Sex in Marriage… “Human Reproduction”
Rights and Obligations of Husband and Wife
Happily Ever After?

In 1962 WA’s first regional branch of Marriage Guidance was founded in Bunbury, recognising the needs of people living far from the capital city of Australia’s largest State.

Though the 1960s was a period of massive social upheaval around the world, the Marriage Guidance Council still saw its core purpose as preventing marriage breakdown. In the next decade, however, changes in family law heralded a different emphasis for the counselling profession. Personal relationships in all their diversity and complexity were considered.

Whilst counselling to help people maintain their relationships remained a priority, if a marriage had broken down, it was now considered best to encourage an amicable approach to separation, particularly if there were children involved. As well as the “rights and obligations” of husbands and wives, parental responsibility was on the agenda. The introduction of no-fault divorce often provided a less fraught atmosphere for a parting of the ways.  Thus mediation services were set up and community education courses now included topics such as ‘rebuilding after separation’ and ‘living in a step-family.’

By the early 90s, the title Marriage Guidance Council was beginning to seem outdated and even misleading. Many more couples were living together, without having married, but still sometimes needing guidance on emotional issues affecting their partnership.

In 1994 the Councils in all States agreed to the new name Relationships Australia, signifying a broad approach that valued all kinds of personal relationships in a healthy society.   Relationships Australia is all about quality relationships.

Among the steps taken towards a more enlightened professionalism have been: the requirement that clinical staff have tertiary qualifications; an increased awareness of domestic violence and the development of appropriate practice models; an increased awareness of the importance of the voices of children being heard and their well being considered paramount; and the range and style of services provided having expanded way beyond the ‘staples’ of counselling, community education and mediation.   

Counselling services have expanded to encompass individuals and families, education programs cover pre-marriage, couple relationships, post-separation, step-families, communication skills and fly-in, fly-out relationships.  The growth in the community services sector has led to the development of services that now include: family dispute resolution, child contact services and Family Relationship Centres. An increasing number of services are tailored to the needs of specific groups, such as ‘Kidcare’ and ‘Moorditj Yarning’ for Aboriginal people, ‘Strength to Strength’  for Humanitarian Entrants newly settled into Australia, ‘Men in Family Relationships’ and a program for people affected by drought.  Services to the corporate sector include Employee Assistance Programs and customised training.

These, and many more steps, have shaped Relationships Australia into the dynamic, professional organisation it is today, constantly refining and adding services to support all kinds of relationships, reflecting the complexity of  21st century life.

PrintEmail a Friend