The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia welcomed the announcement of $63.8 million of additional resources (over the four years to 2025-26) to enhance the ability of the Courts to respond to family violence and other risks to vulnerable parties and children. This forms part of the Federal Government’s 2022-23 Budget and the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children. The funding provides for the national expansion of the Lighthouse Project to address family violence and the appointment of a significant number of Indigenous Liaison Officers. For the full announcement see here.
Importantly, this funding announcement specifically provides for the Lighthouse model to be extended beyond its existing three pilot locations of Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta. From later this year the Lighthouse model will be incorporated into the new case management pathway within the Courts across all 15 family law registries, and will therefore also cover Cairns, Canberra, Dandenong, Darwin, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, Rockhampton, Sydney, Townsville and Wollongong, in both parenting and parenting/property cases.
This edition of the newsletter highlights and revisits the importance of screening, and provides answers to frequently asked questions regarding the Project.
In preparation for the national expansion, this will be the last edition of the newsletter in its current form. Information and news about the Lighthouse, including previous editions of the newsletter, can be found on the FCFCOA website.
The Lighthouse Project Team, and the Court more broadly, is delighted that the importance and success of this initiative has been acknowledged and will continue to assist families by identifying risk, providing access to tailored support services and assisting families by improving outcomes and navigating the family law system. We will be in touch with further information about the rollout of Lighthouse model nationally in due course.
Lighthouse Project and Evatt List – FAQs
Why should clients undertake the risk screen process?
Completing the risk screen and encouraging clients to complete the risk screen questionnaire assists the Court to identify risk factors and to provide support to mitigate that risk. It enables parties to receive safety planning and service referrals specific to their needs. Further, it assists the Court to identify the most appropriate case management pathway for each matter, which is likely to lead to a quicker resolution.
How does the client receive the risk screen?
The invitation to complete the risk screen questionnaire is sent via email, directly from the Court to the client.
What happens if the client does not have an email address or there are safety concerns with providing an email address?
The Project encourages clients to consider creating an email address for the sole purpose of risk screening. When commencing the filing process online via the Commonwealth Courts Portal, clients have the ability to select if an email address should not be disclosed. If parties are represented, the legal representative can list their email address at the point of filing and the Court will email the client’s lawyer requesting the provision of a direct email address for the client.
How can clients screen if they do not have access to technology?
Clients can visit one of the pilot registries in person and complete the screen through an iPad that is made available for this purpose. A member of the Lighthouse triage team can assist, and clients are encouraged to call our National Enquiry Centre on 1300 152 000 to book time with a team member, or if they need help from an interpreter.
Is the risk screening process confidential?
Yes, the risk screening process is confidential. Part IIA of the Family Law Act 1975 prevents the disclosure and admission into evidence, of information that is in connection with a family safety risk screening process carried out by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. Part IIA provides that:
- a party cannot be asked to disclose whether or not they undertook risk screening
- the risk screen responses, classification and referrals as a result of the screening process cannot be used as evidence in a proceeding and legal representatives are not required to disclose their client’s risk screening status and
- information shared or provided by a party to a family counsellor in the course of conducting risk screening cannot be disclosed, or used as evidence
Where can practitioners find information which they can provide to their clients?
Information about the Lighthouse Project, including the Lighthouse Project Family Law Practice Direction, is available on the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia’s website. Information factsheets are available for practitioners and parties, including translated information sheets. Factsheets on the Risk screening process, Family Counsellors and guides for parties, practitioners and Independent Children’s Lawyers in the Evatt List, are also available on the website.
Where can I send correspondence to if a client’s matter is placed on the Evatt List?
All communications with the Court regarding an Evatt List matter, including urgent requests, should be directed to the relevant Evatt Case Manager email, in accordance with the following fact sheet: Communicating with Chambers. Please ensure to check the Court Order received designating the matter to the Evatt List as communication directions may also be stipulated in the Court Order.
You can contact the Court for assistance in the following ways: