New initiatives and more training to support legal practitioners in child protection

New initiatives and more training to support legal practitioners in child protection

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The 36 actions we have committed to as part of our review of child protection legal aid services include better supporting lawyers and improving how the child protection system works.  

Child Protection Legal Aid Services Review Project Manager Vincenzo Caltabiano said: ‘We want to better support lawyers with new and improved processes, additional training and ongoing opportunities for engagement.

‘Achieving much of this will hinge on working with local courts, agencies and practitioners to establish court user meetings and regional child protection networks,’ Mr Caltabiano said.

‘Supporting local initiatives aimed at improving processes, for example, we hope will result in local issues being addressed more quickly.’

Consultation with others who work in child protection also showed strong support for greater training for child protection lawyers. 

Our renewed approach to professional education, training and support in child protection will include:

  • co-ordinating the provision of more professional education, research and preparation of materials and tools to help lawyers do their work
  • making it easier for children to communicate with their lawyers
  • requiring training in trauma-informed practice; capacity assessment for children, young people and parents; and cultural awareness training
  • a minimum of four hours of child protection related hours of professional legal education each year
  • developing better internal intake and referral protocols to identify and address the child protection needs of clients.

‘We will also work with others to reduce the time all parties spend in the pressured court environment. This means improving the time it takes to be provided with reports for court, as well as encouraging early case preparation and access to clients,’ Mr Caltabiano said.

Promoting a clear and shared understanding of purpose

Mr Caltabiano said that an important foundation for redesigning child protection legal services was a clear and shared understanding of why we provide assistance in these matters.

He said that Victoria Legal Aid would work with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a workforce development strategy to achieve this.

‘A workforce development strategy will build a greater understanding of the system as a whole. It will also ensure that child protection workers and lawyers – both central to ensuring the best interests of children and young people – have the necessary skills.’    

Other actions to improve quality and access to services

Other actions for change we have committed to working with others on include:

  • increase the number of lawyers doing child protection work in regional areas
  • provide more support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. This includes new funding for legal help so that siblings and parents of an Aboriginal child placed in out-of-home care can maintain contact with that child, and more funding for the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service
  • create a health justice partnership to provide early advice and legal representation to pregnant women who are, or may be, the subject of an unborn report
  • improve our duty lawyer service, with consistent but flexible guidelines to accommodate different regional requirements
  • trial an early intervention unit of non-legal advocates who will work with young people and families to help provide clearer information, achieve better outcomes and reduce the number of cases going to the Children’s Court of Victoria.

When will actions be implemented?

You will be able to track our progress against implementing these actions under the six main themes:

We expect that the implementation of actions will happen over a number of years.

Read the final report

Download the Child Protection Legal Aid Services Review final report (docx, 7.95 MB) or read Actions from the Child Protection Legal Aid Services Review

You can also find out more at: