Spreading the word about the benefits of new Family Advocacy and Support Services

Spreading the word about the benefits of new Family Advocacy and Support Services

Thursday, 21 June 2018

L–R: FASS Project Coordinator Hilary Molinia; Family Violence Support Worker Angela; Lawyer Belinda Li; Family Violence Support Worker Sunil; Lawyer Acacia Burns.
L–R: FASS Project Coordinator Hilary Molinia; Family Violence Support Worker Angela; Lawyer Belinda Li; Family Violence Support Worker Sunil; Lawyer Acacia Burns.

Lawyers, community workers and others recently came together to learn more about how their clients, who are affected by family violence, can benefit from being linked in with new services available at the Dandenong Family Law Registry.

Family Advocacy and Support Services (FASS) integrate duty lawyer and specialist family violence support at the Family Law Registries at Melbourne and Dandenong.

Judge O'Sullivan from the Federal Circuit Court spoke about FASS from the judiciary's perspective. His Honour was highly supportive of the program and urged lawyers, community workers and others to get behind the program.  

‘It was a terrific opportunity to hear how well services are collaborating to provide clients with more than just legal support when they are at court.'

FASS Project Coordinator Hilary Molinia

‘And it was encouraging that attendees wanted to know more about how to link their clients in with FASS, the various supports available – including for children, and how to better share information between providers,’ said Hilary.

FASS duty lawyers, Acacia Burns from Victoria Legal Aid and Belinda Li from Peninsula Community Legal Centre, and FASS family violence support workers, Angela from WAYSS Ltd and Sunil from Relationships Australia Victoria, spoke from their first-hand experience of the service.

The session illustrated the benefits of clients using the new service through non-identifying case examples.

‘We heard about a FASS client, Natalie [not her real name], who had a serious and lengthy history of family violence over a 15-year relationship,’ said Hilary.

‘It wasn’t until Natalie met with the specialist family violence worker available through FASS that she felt she had the time and felt comfortable enough to disclose all she did.’

Hilary said that the support worker and the duty lawyer worked closely together to ensure that Natalie and her children were supported to move forward safely in the legal process. She was also linked in with additional support services, including specialist trauma counselling, and was allocated priority housing.

Attendees at the session held on Thursday 14 June included staff from Victoria Police, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Victorian Bar, local private practitioners, local community legal centres, community health and family support agencies and maternal health nurses.

‘We’re keen to keep on spreading the word about FASS too,’ Hilary said.   

FASS will also soon hold an information session at the Melbourne family law registry. People can register this interest in attending this with Hilary (see below).

Handy reminders for practitioners

  • FASS provides a one-off service. It is not a drop-in clinic and is not a substitute for ongoing legal advice.
  • Eligibility is broad and not means-tested.
  • Anyone who has used, alleged to have used, or has experienced family violence and who needs assistance with a family law, child protection or family violence intervention order matter can seek legal and non-legal support from FASS.
  • FASS is only for unrepresented or self-represented litigants.
  • A person does not need to qualify for legal aid to get help through FASS, however clients are subject to an intake procedure. This includes determining whether there is anything that precludes them from accessing legal assistance (such as a conflict of interest).
  • Lawyers can refer their clients to FASS for help with their non-legal issues.

How to make a referral

Lawyers can refer their clients to FASS for non-legal support from the specialist family violence support workers based at the court by simply asking them to speak to the FASS information referral officer when they get to court.

The information referral officers are available at:

  • Melbourne Registry – Reception desk, Level 2
  • Dandenong Registry – Counter 5, Ground Level

The information referral officer will triage the client to determine the level and urgency of service they need.

The FASS information referral officer and FASS duty lawyer or family violence support worker will determine the urgency of the matter and the level of assistance needed on a case-by-case basis. This means that on some days a client with a particular issue may be assisted, but on another day they may not if other people with more pressing or urgent issues need assistance.

Read about the experiences of our clients

Read about how providing more than legal advice through FASS is helping:

More information

For more information about FASS see Family Advocacy and Support Services or contact FASS Project Coordinator Hilary Molinia via hilary.molinia@vla.vic.gov.au or (03) 9269 0234 (switchboard).

FASS has been established by Victoria Legal Aid with funding from the Australian Government. 

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