Lighthouse is an innovative approach taken by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia to screen for risk, with a primary focus on improving outcomes for families.
What is the Courts’ Lighthouse model?
Separation and litigation often cause increased stress for families. The Courts are committed to assisting and supporting parties, their children and families through the court proceedings.
The Lighthouse model is an innovative approach taken by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia to screen for risk, with a primary focus on improving outcomes for families. The Lighthouse model is implemented in the Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Dandenong, Darwin, Hobart, Launceston, Parramatta, Melbourne, Newcastle, Rockhampton, Sydney, Townsville and Wollongong family law registries for parenting only, and parenting and financial applications.
The Lighthouse model involves:
- early risk screening through a secure online platform
- early identification and management of family safety risks
- assessment and triage of cases by a specialised team, including Judicial Registrars and Triage Counsellors, who can provide resources
- safe and suitable case management by judicial officers and their legal support team, and
- referral of high-risk cases to a dedicated specialist list, known as the Evatt List.
After filing an initial application or response to an application for a parenting, or parenting and financial matter, a party will be invited to complete the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire. If the responses to this questionnaire identify significant safety concerns or risk factors, the case is reviewed by a Triage Counsellor who may also request that the party is invited to attend a triage interview with the Triage Counsellor.
What will happen in my interview with a Triage Counsellor?
The Court employs Triage Counsellors to assist with the risk screening, risk assessment and triage functions within the Lighthouse model.
Triage Counsellors are highly qualified professionals, who are either psychologists, social workers or hold a relevant social science degree (such as counselling). They have extensive clinical experience working with children and families, including in child protection, family support, family and domestic violence.
Triage Counsellors help to support parties, their children and families with personal or interpersonal issues, including issues relating to the care of the children. This help is targeted towards families who are at high risk as a result of family violence, mental health, drug and alcohol misuse, and child abuse and neglect.
The purpose of the triage interview is to strengthen the safety and wellbeing of the party, the child/ren and/or family members, through:
- exploring the safety and wellbeing concerns
- offering support and guidance to address the concerns or needs, including identifying appropriate support services that might provide immediate and/or ongoing support, and
- developing a safety and wellbeing plan with the party.
The triage interview is generally conducted by telephone and runs for approximately 30–45 minutes. In the interview the Triage Counsellor will discuss your responses to the Family DOORS Triage questionnaire with you.
Attendance at this interview is voluntary as this is not a court-ordered appointment, however parties are strongly encouraged to attend as it can provide support and assistance for the needs/concerns the party has identified.
Given the sensitive nature of the information likely to be discussed, children do not attend the triage interview. Parties who have children in their care will need to make alternative childcare arrangements for the duration of the interview.
How can I change my appointment or request an interpreter?
If you need to change your interview with the Triage Counsellor, or you require an interpreter or other form of support, contact the Lighthouse Team via email at email@example.com. Please ensure to include your name, your court file number (if known) and interview date and time in your email.
Is the information I share with the Triage Counsellor kept confidential?
All information gathered by the Triage Counsellor in the course of the Family DOORS Triage process is confidential and inadmissible to the Court proceedings (sections 10U and 10V, Family Law Act 1975).
This means that the information cannot be used as evidence and a party cannot be cross-examined (except in limited circumstances) on the information they have provided to the Triage Counsellor.
Does the Triage Counsellor have to disclose anything?
Yes, Triage Counsellors must notify a child welfare authority if:
- they reasonably suspect that a child has been, or is at risk of being, abused, and/or
- they reasonably suspect that a child is being ill-treated, or is at risk of being ill-treated, or
- a child has been exposed or subjected, or is at risk of being exposed or subjected, to psychological harm.
Further information about the Lighthouse model can be found on the Court’s website: www.fcfcoa.gov.au/lighthouse
This fact sheet provides general information only and is not provided as legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should contact a lawyer before making a decision about what to do or applying to the Court. The court cannot provide legal advice.