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Victorian Legal Aid takes next steps in protecting victims of domestic violence

By June 27, 2017No Comments

Legal protection for people experiencing family violence has improved significantly since the Family Violence Protection Act was introduced in 2008, however community services such as Legal Aid in Victoria are continuing to improve services and awareness around domestic violence.

Since the 90s Legal Aid has been providing duty lawyers in the Magistrates’ Court to provide advice and representation for various matters, including domestic violence issues. As awareness around family violence has increased, duty lawyers have undergone new awareness training around the issues clients face in violent relationships. The court system has also developed, introducing new court-ordered representation for victims of family violence when they will be directly cross-examined by their abusive ex-partners.

Today Legal Aid in Victoria is working to provide even more awareness through a new online training program for lawyers who are delivering family violence intervention services. This interactive online program aims to raise awareness and problem solving skills in situations where domestic violence is an issue.

These services are planned to be released to the private legal community once they have been road-tested, to ensure all lawyers have an awareness of the impacts of domestic violence and strategies through which its effects on the whole family can be addressed.

However the justice system is increasingly recognising that a legal response is only part of the solution to domestic violence issues. New Family Advocacy and Support Services in Victoria takes an integrated approach and provides victims of violence with a social support worker in Court. This integrated approach includes legal advice, risk screening, safety planning, social support services and referrals to victim’s services.

Alliance Legal is proud to be at the forefront of addressing domestic violence and supporting those who have been effected. Our office recently received training from the Domestic Violence Crisis Service and has good relations with services such as Relationships Australia, and the Tara Costigan Foundation. Our lawyers also volunteer at the Women’s Legal Centre to provide free advice and referrals.

Our aim is to ensure our clients have a full support network to address the impacts of family violence, often by including our client’s social worker or support person in the legal process. This includes supports networks for both those who have been abused in relationships, as well as those who have been abusers.

While much progress has been made to address family violence, there are still improvements that need to be addressed. Legal Aid Victoria is advocating to eliminate direct cross-examination in the family law courts and for continued professional development for lawyers. Alliance looks forward to continuing partnerships with community programs and to engage in further professional development opportunities.

Read more about the work of Legal Aid Victoria here: https://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/wig-chamber/21326-safety-support-and-specialisation-the-response-to-family-violence

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