Last month I talked about Family Violence and the Best Practice Principles that have been developed to protect both the children and parents who are victims of family violence and abuse. The Best Practice Principles recognises that where there are allegations of sexual or serious physical abuse of children that the Magellan case management system be followed.
The Family Court of Australia introduced the Magellan Program which “was developed to deal with Family Court cases involving serious allegations of physical and sexual child abuse.” To ensure action is taking quickly to protect those who are often the most vulnerable in our society, a fast-track program was introduced by the Family Court. The program includes, but is not limited to:
- Rigorous judicial management including imposing strict timeframes
- The appointment of an independent children’s lawyer
- Obtaining information from the relevant state or territory welfare authority early in the trial process
- Close liaison on case management between external information providers and a small team of judges, registrars and family consultants
To ensure that Family Court cases involving serious allegations of child abuse are handled as quickly as possible, and if a Notice of Child Abuse and Family Violence is included in the Application to Court, the matter goes straight into the Court’s Magellan program.
The whole aim of the program is to protect the victims and the court recognizes that time is of the essence in these matters. As such it is preferred that the team handling the case remains the same throughout the whole process with a further aim of completing the case within 6 – 12 months.
When a case has been referred to the Magellan program interim orders will be made to protect the child until the matter goes to trial and the child will have an independent children’s lawyer appointed for them. Other actions may include obtaining a detailed family report and psychiatric assessment and ordering a subpoena and/or requesting a report from the child protection agency as to whether they have previously investigated the allegations.
The introduction of the Magellan program was a significant change for the Family Court of Australia and has resulted in “cases going through the court system more quickly” and that fewer cases are going all the way through to judgment. So whilst early indications are that the introduction of this program has resulted in significant, positive change for children who have suffered severe abuse there is still more work to be done.