Family Law Amendment (Risk Screening Protections) Bill 2020
The Risk Screening Protections Bill will amend the Family Law Act 1975 to establish a Family Safety Risk Screening Process which is to be carried out by a family safety risk screening person in relation to a party to family law proceedings, in order to identify persons at risk of family violence, children at risk of abuse, neglect or family violence, or other risks to the safety of persons. The process includes protections for sensitive information generated and confers immunity on court workers involved in family safety risk screening in the federal family law courts.
Purpose of the Bill: To protect the sensitive information generated through the risk screening process.
The Bill would amend the Family Law Act to provide that:
- family safety risk screening information is CONFIDENTIAL and cannot be disclosed, except in limited circumstances
- Disclosure of family safety risk screening information would be allowed in the following circumstances:
- to protect a child from the risk of harm
- to prevent or lessen serious threats to the life or health of a person, or to the property of a person.
- to report the commission or likely commission of an offence involving violence against a person or intentional damage to property, or
- to assist an independent children’s lawyer.
- Disclosure of family safety risk screening information would also be authorised where disclosure was made:
- in order to comply with a Commonwealth, state or territory law
- to the party who undertook the relevant risk screening
- with the consent of the party who undertook the risk screening or, if the party is a child, with the consent of a court
- to another risk screening person, or
- in order to provide non-personal information for the purposes of research relevant to families.
2. family safety risk screening information is INADMISSIBLE, except in limited circumstances
- amendments would ensure that family safety risk screening information is inadmissible in any court or legal proceedings
- It would also ensure that evidence of anything said, or any admission made, by or to a person to whom a family safety risk screening person refers a party is inadmissible in any court or legal proceedings.
- An exception would apply where family safety risk screening information or evidence indicates that a child has been abused or is at risk of
3. court workers, for example registrars and family counsellors, have IMMUNITY when involved in risk screening
- The amendments would also ensure that a family safety risk screening person, when performing his or her functions as a family safety risk screening person, has the same protection and immunity as that afforded to a judge of the Family Court of Australia in performing the functions of a
Hence, The Bill will ensure that parties to family law proceedings can freely and confidently participate in the risk screening process, without fear of their responses being used against them in their family law (or other) proceedings. This is particularly important for protecting family violence victims in high-risk cases, and for maintaining the accuracy and reliability of the risk screening information used to triage matters.