We are ensuring that family violence considerations are imbedded in all of our practice and procedure
The Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court will harness technology to create a swifter and stronger response to victims of family violence.
The new initiative, the Lighthouse Project, will use an online tool to triage and assist family violence sufferers, and determine whether others are at risk of violence or other issues such as child welfare concerns or substance abuse.
The intention of the project is to boost early risk screening and early identification of safety concerns, which in turn will lead to improved case management.
This new triage process has been designed specifically for the family law system, and can categorise clients as low, medium or high-risk based on the results of an online questionnaire.
High-risk cases will be referred into a dedicated specialist list, named the Evatt List in recognition of the Family Court’s first chief justice, Elizabeth Evatt.
Others can be directed into other services, such as mental health or other social support.
The Family Law Amendment (Risk Screening Protections) Bill 2020, introduced to facilitate the information sharing within the initiative, passed the Federal Parliament on 9 November, meaning the screening can now begin before the end of this year.
The Parramatta registry is one of the pilot sites, along with Adelaide and Brisbane.
“The safety of children and families is the highest priority for our Courts. Our operations are centred on two key elements ‐ risk and responsiveness”, Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court Will Alstergren said in a statement following the passing of the legislation.
“We are ensuring that family violence considerations are imbedded in all of our practice and procedure and the passing of this legislation now allows the Courts to implement a major project that is focussed on the safety of children and families.”
Registrar Lisa O’Neill, one of the pioneers of the project, told LSJ that until now “there had not been a definitive way of risk screening.”
“The Evatt list will focus on that critical early information gathering,” she said.
“Those involved in this work are specialised and very experienced in working with families where those high-risk safety issues have been identified.”