Rates of reported domestic violence have risen exponentially in recent years. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men in Australia have experience physical or sexual violence from a current or previous partner. COVID-19 has also contributed to the crisis, with the Australian Institute of Criminology reporting 10% of Australian women in a relationship had experienced domestic violence during the pandemic.
The Lighthouse Project is an initiative in the Family Court to identify and intervene as soon as possible in cases which involve family violence. The scheme was developed in direct response to a series of law reform submissions calling for early identification and intervention of dangerous family situations.
There are four steps in the process:
Upon application or response for a parenting only order, the applicant will be prompted to complete a questionnaire (known as The Family DOORS Triage screening) about their current circumstances and the nature of the initiating case. This questionnaire is designed to raise red flags regarding whether family violence is present. These responses are confidential and are used only for the purposes of screening.
A specialist family counsellor will be assigned to assess and determine the most appropriate case management techniques to proceed with. The case will either be assessed as red (high risk), amber (medium risk) or green (low risk).
- Case Management
A specialised team (including, for example, registrars and family consultants) will then guide the issue through case management. For amber cases, safety planning and service referrals will be provided, followed by guidance to the most appropriate forum for resolution. Green cases may be referred to court-ordered Family Dispute Resolution to being the process of negotiation and resolution of the issues at hand.
- Evatt List
Situations which are considered red, or high risk, may be placed on what is known as the Evatt List. A highly qualified team of Judges, Family Consultants, Court Staff and Registrars are assigned to the matter. This means that these cases are given the swift attention required to make early assessments and interventions as necessary, ensuring the safety of all is maintained. Cases are aimed to reach trial within nine to twelve months.
It is important that the existence of domestic violence is highlighted as soon as possible to ensure that risk is minimised for all those exposed. With the rates of domestic violence growing rapidly, further fuelled by the conditions of COVID-19, the Lighthouse Project is an invaluable initiative. If you would like advice regarding circumstances of domestic violence, the team at the Norton Law Group are here to assist.