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An evaluation of the Family Court of Australia's Magellan case-management model

Cooperation and coordination: An evaluation of the Family Court of Australia's Magellan case-management model
By Daryl Higgins (author)

Full Report (1.5MB PDF)

The Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, the Honourable Diana Bryant, today released the Australian Institute of Family  Studies' evaluation of Magellan - the Court's interagency case-management model for handling cases involving serious allegations of child abuse.

The Magellan model: The Magellan case-management system was specifically designed to handle these complex cases involving serious allegations of child abuse expeditiously. Magellan is a cooperative process whereby state child protection agencies, which are responsible for investigating the family concerned, now provide focused and timely reports to the Court for its consideration.

History of Magellan: The Attorney-General provided additional funding to the legal aid commissions so that the availability of independent children's lawyers for Magellan cases was not limited by funding caps. The Magellan case management system was first trialled in Melbourne in 1998 and, after evaluation, it was rolled out in all states and territories, except WA, between 2003 and 2006.

The evaluation: The evaluation was conducted by Dr Daryl Higgins from the Australian Institute of Family Studies. At the Institute, Dr Higgins was previously responsible for managing the National Child Protection Clearinghouse - and is now a General Manager (Research).

Key results: The results of the evaluation show that the case management system is achieving its objectives and that it is regarded as a good system. The report also shows where further improvements can be made so that the Magellan cases move even more smoothly through the Court with less distress to families, particularly children. The evaluation has clearly shown the importance of Magellan as an integrated case-management approach that keenly focuses the evidence gathering and trial processes to ensure the best outcomes for children and families in post-separation parenting disputes where allegations of abuse are raised. Compared with the previous system, Magellan cases are dealt with more quickly (4.6 months on average), have fewer court events and have more consistency as they are dealt with by fewer judicial officers. The results highlight the role that statutory child protection authorities play, and the importance of the focused report that child protection workers provide to the Court ("the Magellan Report") that outlines the investigations that they have undertaken, and the current concerns of the department about the risk of harm to the child(ren). The provision of this information in a timely way has been demonstrated to be a critical element of the success of Magellan.

The full report can be accessed online from: www.aifs.gov.au

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