Thursday, 8 October 2020
Family Law Amendment (Risk Screening Protections) Bill 2020; Second Reading
This bill provides legislative support for a domestic violence risk screening pilot program being rolled out by the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. This program, called the Lighthouse Project, is being trialled in three court registries—Adelaide, Brisbane and Parramatta. The Lighthouse Project will screen for safety risks in all applications and responses for parenting-only orders filed with the courts. The information from the screening tool will be confidential and only used to screen for risk and referral to support services. Cases will be triaged to provide additional assistance to at-risk parties and identify suitable case management pathways, which will include a new specialist court list designed to assist families identified as being at high risk of family violence. The Lighthouse Project was funded as part of the 2019-20 MYEFO, announced by the government on 17 December 2019. Funding of $13.5 million was announced for the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia to pilot a systematic approach to identifying and managing family safety risks.
It is regrettable, but unsurprising, that the Morrison government has taken so long to introduce this necessary bill and bring it on for debate. It should have been done in the first sitting week of the year. But it's better late than never. Of course, passage of this legislation does not guarantee the success of the Lighthouse Project; it will simply enable it to happen. It's up to the government to ensure that the project is implemented properly and that the project is successful. Labor senators will be watching carefully. I commend the bill to the Senate.