Published: 22 March, 2023

Media Release: Indigenous families in the Lismore region to benefit from specialised services dedicated to helping families navigate the family law system

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia - Division 2 (the Court), is pleased to announce the commencement of a Specialist Indigenous List (SIL) operating from Lismore registry in NSW.  A welcome ceremony involving key local Indigenous legal support services was hosted by the Court in Lismore today to mark the commencement of the List and expansion of local support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families who are involved in family law proceedings.

Chief Justice, Will Alstergren AO said that the Court’s Indigenous List is designed to meet the particular needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parties and children, and to adopt an appropriate degree of informality.

“The Court is very pleased to have engaged Indigenous Family Liaison Officers (IFLOs) who work closely with communities across Australia. The Court’s commitment to providing specialised services for Indigenous families supports one of our overarching goals of delivering fair and equitable access to justice to all Australians, by providing guidance and support to vulnerable parties and children as they navigate the family law system,” Chief Justice Alstergren said.

In October 2022, the Court engaged Ms Kygim King as an Indigenous Family Liaison Officer based in Lismore. Ms King’s role includes supporting Indigenous litigants to remain engaged throughout the Court’s case management process and to work with community organisations who may be able to assist and support those families.

Ms King will be available to support families in the lead up to, and on, the hearing day. In addition, specialised support services will be available on the day of the List, and tailored case management techniques may be used to assist the families involved.

The Specialist Indigenous List will, whenever possible, be heard in person, at Lismore once per month and will be managed by Senior Judicial Registrar Flintoff with Division 2 final hearings to be presided over by Judge Turner.

IFLOs help parties to understand and engage with court processes, and connect parties to legal and other support services. IFLOs can also assist in cases involving Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples through providing support for some of the other Court events, such as mediations and appointments with Court Child Experts.

“It is my hope that in my role I can assist our local families to feel supported to access and navigate the family law system, and to feel empowered to have more control over decisions that affect their family dynamics as we know that there is not a one size fits all family model, Ms King said.

“I am also working on developing relationships with – and connecting parties with – various community organisations that can assist in providing wrap-around services in the hope that ultimately there is reduced intervention from government agencies such as child protection departments. The objective is to provide better outcomes for our children – as we all know, children are happy, healthy and thriving when they remain connected to family, kin and community. I hope that the establishment of the SIL here in Lismore and Coffs Harbour, as well as the introduction of the IFLO role assists in easing the already emotional rollercoaster of family law proceedings for our families,” Ms King added.

The Court acknowledges the significant support provided by Relationships Australia and WDVCAS which support litigants going through the family law system, as well as Legal Aid’s Family Law Service for Aboriginal Communities (FamAC) and the Aboriginal Legal Service who provide culturally appropriate legal support for parties.

The commencement of the Lismore Indigenous List adds to the national expansion of this modified case management process which enhances access to the Courts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander litigants in ten locations: Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne, Sydney/Parramatta, Townsville, Coffs Harbour and Lismore.

The Court’s Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar Mr David Pringle said that, “Indigenous Family Liaison Officers provide invaluable connections to local communities and assist with the effective running of Indigenous lists and other court events, to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to access legal, health and other support services.

“The Court has placed significant resources and priority towards this initiative to facilitate greater access to justice for family law litigants who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The role of our Indigenous Family Liaison Officers is crucial to assist with specialised Indigenous lists and other parts of the Courts’ case management pathway. Ms King, and all of the Court’s IFLOs, undertake a vital role in building relationships between the Courts, local communities and support services,” Mr Pringle added.