Stories of Family Safety Study

Stories of Family Safety Study

Improving the safety & wellbeing of family members when the family law courts are involved for families during separation.

This is a collaboration between La Trobe University (LTU), Relationships Australia South Australia (RASA) and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCoA; the Courts). The project aims to keep families safe and well when they are involved with the family law system.

Some families rely on the Courts for sorting out parenting disputes following separation. Safety and wellbeing concerns, particularly for children and other vulnerable family members, are often reported during this time.

The Stories of Family Safety study is linked to the national rollout of the Lighthouse Project by the Courts in late 2022. The Lighthouse Project aims to improve, fast track and prioritise pathways for vulnerable families involved in parenting disputes. Stories of Family Safety explores the effectiveness of the early screening tool used in this project, and gathers family stories to understand what else is required to keep all family members safe and well when they decide to separate.

What’s the aim?

The project aims to improve outcomes for separated families involved with the Courts by:

  • Providing new knowledge about family safety and wellbeing in separating families and;
  • Translating findings into new supports and resources for:
    • parents and other family members;
    • family law professionals and other community members.

What’s involved?

This study gathers a large datapool of safety screening data that consenting parents provide in an app when they first file at the Courts.

One year later, we then ask consenting parents to complete a repeated measure of this safety screening, to see how things are going for their family. At this follow-up, we also ask parents to complete additional questions about their health, quality of life and the things that have helped improve family safety and wellbeing for them over the course of that year.

The follow-up survey takes about 30-minutes to complete online, can be completed with assistance over the phone, and parents are remunerated with a $100 gift voucher.

On completion of the survey, parents may indicate their interest in a follow-up study involving face-to-face interviews for parents and children. This study is remunerated too.

Who are the researchers?

Principal Investigator – Professor Jennifer McIntosh (La Trobe University)
Chief Investigators – Professor Amy Holtzworth-Munroe (Indiana University); Dr Heng Jiang (La Trobe University); Dr Anna Booth (La Trobe University); Professor Yvonne Wells (La Trobe University); Dr Bradley Wright (La Trobe University); Professor Craig Olsson (Deakin University)
Partner Investigators – Dr Claire Ralfs (Relationships Australia South Australia); Ms Elizabeth Evans (Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia).

Who funds this project?

This study is being funded by the ARC (Australian Research Council).

Meet the project team

  • Professor Jennifer McIntosh – Project Director
  • Dr Anna Booth – Project Manager
  • Felicity Painter – Database Manager
  • Sonia Marchionda – Participant Liaison


1. What’s the Lighthouse Project?

The Lighthouse Project is an initiative by the Federal Circuit & Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA; the Courts) to protect children and other vulnerable parties during their family law journey, particularly those experiencing safety risks. It does this via early risk identification and provision of support.

2. What’s a safe family?

A safe family is one where all family members are free of physical and psychological harm to self and/or other family members, and in the case of children, developmental harm as well.

3. What’s a family safety screening tool?

A systematic set of questions surveying major factors involved in family safety and wellbeing.

4. Is information kept private & confidential?

When litigants are first invited to complete the initial risk screen, shortly after filing their matter with the Courts, they are assured that all information they provide will be kept private and confidential and cannot be used as evidence in court. The same applies to any third-party partners involved, like the Stories of Family Safety study team at La Trobe University. We are ethically and legally committed to keeping all information collected for research purposes confidential. No family members will be identified in the publication of any study outcomes.

5. More information

For more information, download the Participant Information Sheet here and/or contact us:

Contact number: 0481 842 068
Funding acknowledgement: This study is supported by the ARC (LP210100181).
Ethics approval number: 06072022