The Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia have designed and developed a unique project to identify issues of family violence and to support vulnerable families involved in family law disputes.

On Thursday 3 December 2020, Chief Justice Alstergren will officially launch the Lighthouse Project at the National STOP Domestic Violence conference in Queensland.

The Lighthouse Project is a three-year $13.5 million Government funded pilot to screen for risk through the innovative use of a confidential web-based risk screening platform called Family DOORS Triage.

Chief Justice Alstergren acknowledged the important role that support services play in helping separating couples and their families. He said that although the legal profession plays a significant role, it has been important to listen to those who operate at the coal-face.

“The level of family violence in our society is a disgrace. We as a community cannot accept the number of deaths every week, month or year, or the number of people scarred for life physically, or mentally.

“For too long, the process of separation and divorce has been viewed largely as a legal issue. But we know, it is much broader than that. The Courts’ innovative Lighthouse Project places significant attention on the health, safety and wellbeing of separating couples.

“As a modern court operating in the family law jurisdiction, our role is in early risk identification and responsiveness to those risks.

“The confidential risk screening process will enable the Courts, at the very early stages of a parenting case filed in the pilot locations, to triage the matter. Our specialised in-house family counsellors will help litigants navigate the process, assist in safety planning and refer families to appropriate health and other services.

Cases identified as ‘high risk’ will be referred to a list known as the Evatt List, in which matters will go before one of 10 specialist judges who have been selected for their experience and training in the area of family violence. Judges will be assisted by a highly skilled team that includes Registrars and family consultants.

It is a pioneering project and has already been acknowledged through the Queensland Government’s Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Honour Roll.

The Lighthouse Project will commence on 7 December 2020 as follows: Federal Circuit Court registries of Adelaide (7 December), Brisbane and Parramatta (11 January). Commencement in those registries of the Family Court will be in early 2021.

Further details of the Lighthouse Project are available from the websites of the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.