03 Sep The Lighthouse Project – shining a light on family safety in domestic violence
A new initiative to protect families while they navigate the family law system
WHAT IS THE LIGHTHOUSE PROJECT?
The Lighthouse Project is a pilot program initiated by the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. This project has been developed in response to a growing need for the family law system to better assess and respond to family violence and other safety risks.
With an emphasis on screening individual situations and the identification of potential complications, the scheme aims to improve outcomes for families as they navigate the family law system.
Developed from calls to quickly establish the risk of danger to families in need of access to The Courts, this project arose out of recommendations compiled from more than a decade of research on this issue.
With initial funding from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, The Lighthouse Project will be introduced in Brisbane, Adelaide and Parramatta. Once the program has generated enough data, results will be tabulated. Additional funding can then be secured, and a national roll-out of the program will follow.
WHY IS THE LIGHTHOUSE PROJECT IMPORTANT?
Shocking statistics revealed by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare identify that “Intimate partner violence causes more illness, disability and deaths than any other risk factor for women aged 25–44.” In addition to this is the alarming evidence that across Australia, one woman each week dies because of male violence, and a parent kills one child.
In conjunction with previous research and reporting, these findings support the necessity for a program such as the Lighthouse Project, and there is no doubt that close monitoring will witness its effectiveness in decreasing the detrimental impacts of family violence seen by The Courts.
WHAT WILL THE LIGHTHOUSE PROJECT ACHIEVE?
Aimed at screening for safety risks involving violence at the point at which a parenting application is filed, this tool will enable professionals to triage the support necessary for parenting-only matters. The Family Court of Australia’s Lighthouse Project uses an innovative digital platform for:
· Early risk screening through a secure online platform.
· Early identification and management of safety concerns.
· Assessment and triage of cases by a specialised team, who will provide resources and safe and suitable case management.
· Referring high-risk cases to a dedicated court list, known as the Evatt List.
The program is designed to deliver easier access to justice, with a single entry point to The Courts. It is envisaged that there will be improved outcomes for litigants because of better case management and more information available to the Court from the very first stages. Another perceived advantage is that The Lighthouse Project will provide more “opportunities to settle early through the use of alternative dispute resolution for suitable matters.”
HOW DOES THE LIGHTHOUSE PROJECT WORK?
The Family Court of Australia describes the stages covered by the pilot as follows.
When parenting-only orders are filed, parties complete a confidential questionnaire via a secure online platform (called Family DOORS Triage) accessible from a PC, mobile or tablet.
Family counsellors then assess the case and direct it to appropriate case management solutions. These solutions can include online referrals to support services. Claims that are determined to need more support will be offered family counselling appointments to determine the extent of their needs and the safety measures necessary.
Each case is managed by a team of highly skilled professionals, including registrars, family consultants and support staff with expertise in the management of family violence and its associated safety risks. Between the experts assigned, the most appropriate case management pathway is designated and enacted.
The Evatt is a confidential listing of the families that require prompt attention because they are at high risk of family violence or other safety concerns. Though a judge-led support team, it concentrates on early information gathering and intervention. Professionals trained to work with families where high-risk safety issues are identified follow the pathways identified in the previous step to offer immediate support and improved outcomes.
HOW WILL THE LIGHTHOUSE PROJECT BENEFIT FAMILIES?
The Family Court of Australia expects The Lighthouse Project to offer many benefits to families in crisis, the largest being the speed with which safety concerns can be alleviated. Another key advantage will be achieved through the streamlined route through the judicial process, so a prompt negotiation of positive outcomes can take place.
As at August 2020, The Courts are focusing on testing the Family DOORS Triage application, finalising process manuals and procedural documents, training, protocols and guidance, and engaging with key stakeholders. The Family Court of Australia will provide further updates in the lead up to the commencement of the project.
NEED MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE LIGHTHOUSE PROJECT?
If you or your family are experiencing family violence or other safety concerns, contact 1800RESEPCT or if in immediate danger, call 000.