Published: 28 November, 2023

Media release: Court CEO talks about keeping families safe STOP Domestic Violence conference, Hobart

As part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, representatives from the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (the Courts) will be presenting at the STOP Domestic Violence Conference which commenced in Hobart yesterday.

Over 80 percent of family law matters dealt with by the Courts involve allegations of family violence. To address the need to better understand the risks faced by families, the Courts have introduced significant changes in the way family violence and other risks are identified, triaged and managed. Judicial officers have been provided with trauma-informed training, and all areas of the Courts’ operations have been reviewed to enable more effective case management that enables safer outcomes, reduces delays and provides opportunities for parties to resolve their disputes.

The Courts’ Chief Executive Officer and Principal Registrar, Mr David Pringle, will be speaking at the STOP Domestic Violence Conference today, alongside a Court Indigenous Family Liaison Officer, Mr Dwayne Coulthard, who is a proud Adnyamathanha and Kokatha man supporting Indigenous families in South Australia who are accessing the Courts as they seek to resolve their family law matters.

Mr Pringle said that he is incredibly proud of the major operational and cultural changes that have been realised by the Courts in recent years and looks forward to informing the conference delegates about these significant initiatives. Importantly, the conference provides an opportunity to hear from a range of stakeholders about their experiences and views on how we can continue to improve court processes for families who are impacted by family violence.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for information sharing between the Courts, the domestic and family violence sector and the community, and I have no doubt that it will encourage a meaningful dialogue about the need for a more integrated and trauma-informed system,” Mr Pringle said.

Mr Coulthard shares this enthusiasm, "I am excited to meet with colleagues in different fields to learn about their initiatives and to discuss how we can all work together to make some real progress towards our collective goal in ending family violence in a generation."

Hayley Foster, who was recently appointed to the Courts to advise the Chief Justice and Chief Executive Officer on improving responses to family violence and making the Courts more accessible to priority population groups said this Conference was an important annual event.

"It's like a mecca of Australia's leading researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and individuals who have firsthand experience working with people impacted and experiencing domestic violence. It is critical that we all come together to share the latest innovations and initiatives which work to not only better support people impacted by family violence but to prevent it from happening in the first place,” Ms Foster said at the opening day of the event yesterday.

Today marks the first anniversary of the national expansion of Lighthouse, an internationally recognised court initiative which, through the Family DOORS Triage risk screen, provides a safe and confidential opportunity for parties involved in family law disputes to disclose family safety risks. In the past 12 months, parties in over 75% of eligible matters have completed the risk screen and the Courts’ highly skilled Triage Counsellors have conducted over 5,600 case file reviews for high-risk parties. To date, over 1,400 matters have been placed on the Evatt List which is the Courts’ specialist list, which provides intensive and specialist support for matters considered to be high risk.

More recently, the Priority Property Pools initiative (known as PPP) has been expanded nationally. PPP provides a simplified way of resolving property disputes and aims to minimise risk, legal costs, and to preserve the parties’ assets. PPP cases generally involve property disputes where the net asset pool is valued up to $550,000 (excluding superannuation), and otherwise for cases that have been identified as being suitable for PPP, which may include those that feature family violence or other risks to the parties.

In addition, last month a further Specialist Indigenous List (SIL) was launched in Newcastle to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families locally. The List is be named ‘Wonai Nganka Kanan’, a phrase from the local Awabakal language, meaning “Children/Child First”. The List will draw on the case management benefits and priority resources of each of the existing specialist lists available in the Newcastle Registry, while honouring the best practice locally.

The STOP Domestic Violence Conference started in Hobart yesterday and runs until Wednesday, 29 November.

Other family violence related court initiatives include:

Lighthouse and Evatt List, Educational films on family violence, Priority Property Pool (PPP), Family Violence Plan and Best Practice Principles, Indigenous Family Liaison Officers and Specialist Indigenous Lists, Magellan List, the Critical Incident List and other specialist lists, Court Therapy Dog, and Information Sharing and Co-location with police and state child welfare agencies.