The Lighthouse Project

The Lighthouse Project is an innovative approach taken by the Federal Circuit Court of Australia to screen for risk, with a primary focus on improving outcomes for families. This project is being piloted in the Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta Federal Circuit Court registries for parenting only applications.

The Lighthouse Project involves:

  • 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, and
  • referral of high-risk cases to a dedicated court list, known as the Evatt List.

Separation and litigation are processes that cause increased stress for families. The Courts are committed to assisting and supporting parties, their children and families through the court proceedings.

Appointment with a Family Counsellor

Family Counsellors are qualified social workers or psychologists with skills and experience in working with children and families and conducting risk assessments. Family Counsellors are employed by the Court to help parties affected by separation deal with personal or interpersonal issues, and issues relating to the care of the children.

After filing an initial application or response to an application for a parenting only matter, a party will be invited to complete the Family DOORS Triage screening tool. If the responses to this tool identify significant safety concerns or risk factors, the party is invited to attend an appointment with a Family Counsellor.

The purpose of the appointment is to strengthen the safety and wellbeing of the party, the child/ren and/or family members, through:

  • exploring the safety and wellbeing concerns
  • offering support and guidance to address the concerns or needs, including identifying appropriate support services that might provide immediate and/or ongoing support, and
  • developing a safety and wellbeing plan with the party.

Attendance at this appointment is voluntary as this is not a court-ordered appointment, however parties are strongly encouraged to attend as it can provide support and assistance for the needs/concerns the party has identified.

In the majority of circumstances, the appointment will be via telephone or videoconference. If a face-to-face appointment is preferred or an interpreter is required, please call the National Enquiry Centre (NEC) on 1300 352 000. For face-to-face appointments, the NEC can also assist with developing a safety plan for when the party attends the registry.

If you need to change your appointment with the Family Counsellor, you should call the NEC on 1300 352 000.

Children are not required to attend the appointment. Where possible, parties will need to make alternative childcare arrangements for the duration of the appointment. Given the sensitive nature of the information likely to be discussed, it is inappropriate for children to be present for this appointment.

Confidentiality and use of information

All information gathered by the Family Counsellor in the course of the Family DOORS Triage process is confidential and inadmissible to the Court proceedings (sections 10U and 10V, Family Law Act 1975).

This means that the information cannot be used as evidence and a party cannot be cross-examined (except in limited circumstances) on the information they have provided to the Family Counsellor.

Does the family counsellor have to disclose anything?

Yes, family counsellors must notify a child welfare authority if:

  • they reasonably suspect that a child has been, or is at risk of being, abused, and/or
  • they reasonably suspect that a child is being ill-treated, or is at risk of being ill-treated, or
  • a child has been exposed or subjected, or is at risk of being exposed or subjected, to psychological harm.

More Information

Further information about the Lighthouse Project can be found on the Court's website: www.federalcircuitcourt.gov.au/lighthouse

This fact sheet provides general information only and is not provided as legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should contact a lawyer before making a decision about what to do or applying to the Court. The court cannot provide legal advice.

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