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Family Court and FCC welcome risk-screening Bill

The Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia have declared their support for this week’s introduction of the Family Law Amendment (Risk Screening Protections) Bill 2020.

While it is very uncommon for the courts to take a public stance on proposed legislation, it is understandable as the Bill establishes a framework to facilitate the courts’ new Lighthouse Project family violence and risk-screening initiative.

The project will enable the courts to screen for risk and focus on public health and improved outcomes for families involved in the family law system. It will operate as a pilot program in Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta, and will involve:

  • early risk screening through a secure online platform
  • early identification and management of safety concerns
  • assessment and triage of cases by a specialised team, which will provide resources and safe and suitable case management.

Cases identified as high risk will be referred to a dedicated court list known as the Evatt List (named after the Family Court’s first Chief Justice, Elizabeth Evatt AC), which will focus on early information gathering and intervention through a judge-led support team.

The new screening process should begin later this year, but a final date will depend on the legislative amendments to ensure the information generated and obtained during the family safety risk-screening process is both confidential and inadmissible.

The project team is undertaking a program of consultation and training with stakeholders. Enquiries can be made via LighthouseProject@familycourt.gov.au.

More details on the Lighthouse Project are available from the websites of the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court. Details of the Bill are available from Parliament House.

See also ‘Federal courts pilot project to offer DV support’ from Proctor Online on 8 July.

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