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Family Law in Canberra – Legal Aid via Skype for domestic violence victims

By June 10, 2015No Comments

Victorian Legal Aid reports that an increasing number of domestic violence victims have been making use of their ‘virtual outreach’ service, by which clients can access lawyers through the easy-to-use teleconferencing app Skype.  In the 15 months since its inception, the link-up service has already assisted 340 women across regional Victoria, with plans to expand into other areas of the state, and ultimately interstate. At present, the service is funded through Victorian Legal Aid and the Legal Service Board, at a cost of $130,000 a year, though ongoing funding is not guaranteed.

While the service does not aim to replace face-to-face legal advice, it is provided as an adjunct to enable access for women in certain situations. For example, women have been able to utilise the service while in refuges or even in hospital beds after an assault, when time can be very much of the essence. Obtaining legal advice early is important in domestic violence situations, especially when applying for an intervention order.  Explains the service’s principal lawyer, Helen Matthews:

“If they can obtain that order early then it may well be that it’s the violent person who’s excluded, say, from the family home, rather than the women who need to flee the family home to find accommodation in refuges. So that’s a crisis situation and it’s a legal response to that crisis situation.”

Clients have also indicated that they appreciate the increased interpersonal contact that Skype offers over phone calls.

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