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Boosting support for at risk families in the family law system

Media Release

Attorney-General
Minister for Industrial Relations
Leader of the House
The Hon. Christian Porter MP

Minister for Foreign Affairs
Minister for Women
Senator the Hon. Marise Payne

Joint media release

The Morrison Government will establish a $13.5 million pilot program to better identify and support families who are entering the family law system and are at risk of domestic violence.

Legislation to be introduced today paves the way for the trial, to be known as the Lighthouse Project, which will screen participants involved in family law parenting matters for risk factors when a matter is filed. Cases will be triaged according to the level of risk, and supports provided to families identified as being in need.

The Family Law Amendment (Risk Screening Protections) Bill 2020 supports the establishment of the pilot program, which will be run through the Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta family law registries.

A specialist family violence list will also operate in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in these registries for high-risk cases, enabling them to be fast-tracked with appropriate security arrangements in place.

"This approach will enable early identification and ongoing assessment and management of risks to vulnerable people who are navigating the family law system," the Attorney-General said.

"The legislation introduced today will support this important initiative by ensuring that the information generated and obtained during the family safety risk screening process is both confidential and inadmissible.

"This means that families will be able to freely and confidently participate in the process, enabling risks to be identified and parties to be referred to the social support services that they might need outside of the court process."

Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, said the specialist family violence list will be named the Evatt List, in honour of the Hon Elizabeth Evatt AC who was the first Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia.

"The courts play a crucial role in addressing family violence. This legislation will enhance the family law system's approach to risk identification and management, and improve outcomes for vulnerable families," she said.

"It is another example of the Morrison's Government's continuing commitment to addressing family violence in Australia and to ensuring that the family law system protects victims of family violence."

The $13.5 million funding for the pilot of new risk-screening measures also builds on the Government's strong investment in addressing domestic violence, with:

  • $340 million in funding as part of the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022
  • a $150 million COVID-19 Domestic Violence Support Package, and
  • around $20 million in additional legal assistance funding to support those affected by domestic violence during the pandemic, as part of a broader $63 million legal assistance package.

Australians in need of legal help can visit the Attorney-General's Department website to find out about the services that may be available. If in immediate danger, they should call 000 immediately.

For further advice or information about domestic and family violence, 1800RESPECT is a free, national telephone service: call 1800 737 732.

For more information about the pilot visit - http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/fcoaweb/family-law-matters/family-violence/lighthouse-project/lighthouse-project