The Federal courts have launched a trial project in three key regions, including Brisbane, to provide guidance and support for families experiencing, or at risk of, domestic and family violence.
The Commonwealth Government has earmarked $13.5 million to fund a “risk-screening and triage” pilot program – Project Lighthouse – at Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia registries in Brisbane, Adelaide and Parramatta.
Brisbane-based Family Court and Federal Circuit Court practice and procedure registrar Lisa O’Neill yesterday told Proctor the project would improve the safety of litigants who may have experienced family violence and children who may have experienced associated risks such as child abuse.
“The Lighthouse Project – formally known as the Risk-Screening and Triage Pilot – is the name given to the overarching project created to develop the pilot and its interconnected processes,” Ms O’Neill said.
“Lighthouse Projectwas chosen as it represents the objective of the pilot, to provide guidance and support to families experiencing or at risk of family violence, and other risk behaviours such as substance misuse or mental health concerns.
“Much as a lighthouse provides light and a navigation waypoint for ships, warning of dangerous coasts or guiding them into ports, the Lighthouse Project will play a central role in the courts’ response to cases which may involve family violence and determining the urgency and resources provided to such cases.
“It will also improve the safety of litigants who may have experienced family violence and children who may have experienced associated risks such as child abuse.”
Ms O’Neill said the project had also seen the creation of the Evatt List,which identifies cases of high-risk litigants.
“The Evatt List is a critical piece in the pilot’s design and will assist the courts to respond to those matters identified as high risk,” Ms O’Neill said.
“The Chief Justice has identified judges who will preside in the Evatt List, a high-risk list named in honour of Dr Elizabeth Evatt, the first Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia.”
Family Court and Federal Circuit Court Chief Justice Will Alstergren said the courts had been working on innovative ways to enhance risk assessment and case management of matters involving family violence.
“Registrar Lisa O’Neill and her supporting staff have been working tirelessly on the Lighthouse Project, which is a ground-breaking way to identify and assess risk at an early stage and to ensure that people experiencing family violence will receive appropriate support and case management,” he said.
“Importantly, the cases identified as involving high risk will be heard and determined sooner.”