Family Violence has become a plague to our society. It does not discriminate and comes in various forms be it manipulative behaviour, financial control, verbal threats or physical assaults.
The Australian Family Court has taken notice of the increased risk faced by members in our society and has launched a new initiative called the Lighthouse Project.
A lighthouse has always been a beacon of hope, guiding ships at sea to return safely home. One function of lighthouses was the provision of a visible warning against shipping hazards, such as rocks or reefs.
The Lighthouse Project is a pilot program for parenting matters which helps to identify and manage the safety concerns of the parties involved in parenting matters.
The Pilot Program is being rolled out in the Brisbane, Adelaide and Parramatta Registries of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
There are three stages included in this program including risk screening, triage and, if applicable, a parenting matter can now be placed in a specialised Court list known as the Evatt List.
At the screening stage a party will have the opportunity to complete a confidential questionnaire though a secure online platform called ‘Family DOORS Triage’. The responses will be reviewed and necessary referrals for health support and case management will be made. Any information contained in the questionnaire is confidential, which means the party completing the questionnaire cannot be compelled to disclose any information. This allows for parties to feel safe and secure in answering the questions truthfully.
The triage service involves cases being reviewed by family counsellors who direct the case to the appropriate pathway. The review will include consideration of common safety risks such as family violence, mental health issues and alcohol/drug misuse. The cases will be classified as either high, medium or low risk.
High risk cases will receive immediate action through an appointment with a family counsellor who will then provide a follow up involving a detailed assessment, safety and wellbeing plan and referral to relevant services. The process is treated with the highest level of confidence.
The medium risk cases will be offered online service referrals and online safety planning. Depending on the facts a case, it may be referred to a case management pathway.
Low risk cases are the cases appropriate for court ordered family dispute resolution to assist with resolving matters in a cost effective and time efficient manner.
The case management stage involves a collaborative approach from Registrars, Family Consultants and support staff with family violence and family safety risk expertise to support a matter through the relevant case management pathway.
If family units have been identified as high risk due to family violence and/or other safety concerns, their matter will be assigned to the ‘Evatt’ List. This is a specialised list led by Judges and experts working with families where the high-risk issues have been identified. Parties who have combined parenting and property matters will not be eligible for the Evatt list to keep the list clear for high-risk parenting only cases. The focus of the list is to gather information early and provide intervention.
The project provides a beacon of hope for those who have experienced family violence and wish to safely navigate the process of separation and childcare arrangements.
For more information on how the Lighthouse Project may help you or, if you need assistance with a Family Law matter including concerns about Domestic Violence, the experienced Shanahan Family Law team can help.