Thursday 29 April 2010 2:57pm
Alexander McMillan Chair in Childhood Studies and Psychology Professor Gordon Harold has been appointed an Honorary Professor in Law at a UK university.
He will contribute to research activities at Cardiff Law School in relation to initiatives being developed in the UK and New Zealand, specifically surrounding the family justice system and developments aimed at improving outcomes for children in the context of parental separation and divorce.
Professor Harold, who came to Otago from the Psychology Department at Cardiff University, says the appointment marks a professional milestone for him.
“It came somewhat out of the blue. As a psychologist, it is quite rare to be appointed to a law school and I feel very privileged to be offered this position” he says.
“It also signals somewhat of a strategic change within the family justice system in the UK and internationally with increasing recognition that the Family Court may need to take more of a mental health approach to complement its legal focus in dealing with the challenges of the modern family and in particular the impacts of family breakdown on parents and children.
“This appointment recognises the importance of addressing the mental health needs of children and the role that parents and practitioners play in promoting children’s welfare in the context of the family justice system. This shift in focus is a somewhat radical yet very positive initiative and could result in significantly improved outcomes for children,” Professor Harold says.
He says the University of Otago is already a leader in this inter-disciplinary approach, with his appointment as the Alexander McMillan Professor of Childhood Studies - a Chair situated within Otago’s Humanities division, where the Faculty of Law is located, complemented by an appointment as Professor in the Department of Psychology.
“New Zealand is already well ahead internationally in its recognition of the need to work across disciplinary boundaries in promoting the welfare and best interests of children.
Initiatives focusing on the protection of children’s psychological welfare and wellbeing in the context of parental separation and divorce are already leading to strategies which can only further improve outcomes for children.”
Professor Harold says while the New Zealand Family Court introduced specialist support services for parents (including counselling and mediation) once established in 1981, it can still do much more to address the causes and mental health outcomes associated with separation and divorce, particularly as they relate to mental health impacts of family breakdown on children.
This will help to reorient the Court’s focus on dispute resolution through its conciliative or adjudicative functions in accord with statutory provisions and legal precedent, he says.
Professor Gordon Harold
Tel 64 3 479 5038
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