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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:

  1. 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:
  1. in order to comply with a  Commonwealth, state or  territory  law
  2. to the party  who undertook the relevant  risk screening
  3. with the consent of the  party  who undertook the  risk screening  or,  if the  party  is a child, with the  consent of  a  court
  4. to another risk screening person, or
  5. 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 

 

Conclusion

 

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.  

 

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