A beacon in the darkness for beleaguered families.
With the last year spent in mixed states of lockdown across Australia, the continuing need for modernisation and specialisation when dealing with the risks of family violence has been more critical than ever.
Changes are coming to the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court of Australia (the Family Court) over the next few years in the form of the Lighthouse Project.
Specifically aimed at victims of family violence, the Lighthouse Project is a commendable initiative that modernises and streamlines the dedicated Family Court’s ability to identify and cater to those at risk. The Lighthouse Project is currently operating as a pilot program in Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta Federal Circuit Court Registries.
The function of the program is to screen and identify parties that are at risk of family violence through a multi-phase digital triage process and allocate resources to manage those risks appropriately. More specifically, when an application for Parenting Orders is filed or responded to, parties will complete a confidential survey that identifies their risk of family violence. Those parties will be streamed based on their answers into three risk levels that are allocated resources based on their needs:
Lower risk cases will be provided with family dispute resolution services, to best provide for a solution without costly and stressful court proceedings.
Medium risk cases will be supplemented with a safety plan and further case management from specialists to adapt to the unique circumstances of the party.
High risk cases require immediate action.
Video conferences and face to face appointments with family counsellors will be expedited in these matters and affected parties will work with the counsellor to make a detailed follow up plan to best suit the urgent wellbeing and safety needs of all those involved. Additional services can be made available as part of this plan where necessary, including access to additional clinical counselling, and safety planning based on the information gathered by these support functions.
High risk matters may also be referred to the registrar to be placed on the Evatt List where deemed necessary. The Evatt List is a specialised Court list where parties found to be at high risk can have their case expedited. Further, the personnel assigned to the Evatt List have specialised training and expertise.
The entire process of this triage is conducted digitally through a portal that is completely confidential. The Evatt List uses a one judge one family model which increases confidentiality and helps create rapport and comfort when participating in the proceedings. None of the information provided will be made available to third parties, and the Evatt List endeavours to keep court appearances as few as possible to minimise stress.
There is some concern in that the Evatt list is only eligible for Parenting Orders application in isolation. This may have unintended consequences for parties who are experiencing violence during property proceedings.
Overall, this initiative is a welcome aid to those at risk of family violence and might be a model of triage and resource allocation that ultimately can benefit other lists in future.
Nicholes Family Lawyers maintains exceptional specialist expertise in these matters and has experienced and empathetic lawyers who can help if you or your children are experiencing family violence. If you are at immediate risk please don’t hesitate to dial 000.