More effective responses to gender inequality including sex discrimination and family violence

More effective responses to gender inequality including sex discrimination and family violence

We are committed to contributing to system wide change that promotes gender equality and assists in reducing the incidence of sex discrimination and family violence.

There is a strong link between sex discrimination and family violence. The causes of family violence are deeply embedded in community attitudes about power and the role of women in our society. To stop family violence, we also need to address the gendered attitudes that lead to sex discrimination. Our strategic advocacy work focuses on addressing the cause as well as the consequences of gender inequality.

The Royal Commission into Family Violence provides an ongoing opportunity in 2015–16 to influence the policy debate with input from our vast practice experience.

What is sex discrimination?

People in Victoria continue to experience inequality, sexual harassment and discrimination in many parts of their lives.

The Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 protect people from unfair treatment on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, pregnancy and breastfeeding. They also protect workers with family responsibilities and make sexual harassment against the law.

What is family violence?

Family violence is harmful behaviour that is used to control, threaten, force or dominate a family member through fear. It includes:

  • physical abuse, such as hitting or pushing a person
  • sexual abuse, such as forcing a person to have sex
  • emotional or psychological abuse, such as controlling who a person can see and when, or calling them names
  • financial abuse, such as controlling a person's money without their consent.

A family violence intervention order protects a person from a family member who is using family violence.

Family violence intervention orders are increasing

Targeted government strategies, an increase in police focused on family violence, and the emergence of preventative media campaigns have heightened demand for assistance in this area. This as led to a growing number of intervention orders applications.

'Over the last 10 years, there has been an 83 per cent increase in the number of family violence intervention order applications finalised.'

Magistrates’ Court of Victoria 2013–14 Annual Report, p. 68

Why this is a strategic priority

As the largest provider of family violence services in Victoria, we provide a leading role in co-ordinating the provision of legal services. The challenge for us has been to respond effectively to an increasing number of clients who need legal assistance.

To ensure we have more effective responses to gender inequality and family violence, it is important that our service delivery is complemented by strategic advocacy that contributes to system-wide change to:

  • assist in reducing gender inequality, including incidents of sex discrimination and family violence
  • improve the safety of adults and children impacted by family violence
  • assist in reducing the incidence of family violence
  • effectively support and protect people at risk or who are experiencing family violence promote offender accountability productively by addressing the causes of offending
  • ensure that victims of family violence are better protected and accommodated in other parts of the legal system, including the child support, social security, infringements and discrimination systems.

Our advocacy work

Our advocacy work currently focuses on:

  • reform proposals that respond to safety concerns for self-represented litigants in family law matters where family violence is an issue
  • examining the issues surrounding adolescents that perpetrate family violence
  • strengthening the identification of family violence across services
  • providing tailored services that are informed by an understanding how family violence affects a person’s decisions and ability to access legal advice
  • analysing the impact that proposed law, policy or procedure changes may have on:
    • people who have experienced family violence
    • the incidence of family violence
    • advocating for stronger legal protection for people affected by family violence in the child support, social security, infringements and discrimination systems
    • strengthening legal protection against sex and pregnancy discrimination in Victorian and Commonwealth laws.

Law reform submissions

Our services

We provide advice and representation to applicants in discrimination and sexual harassment cases.

We also co-ordinate duty lawyer services for family violence intervention order matters across all Victorian Magistrates’ Courts.

The provision of legal advice is essential to keep victims, mostly women and children, safe. We know that when respondents are given legal advice, they are far less likely to breach an order than if they do not receive any advice.

We also refer clients to family violence workers, accommodation services, drug and alcohol counselling and men’s behavioural change programs throughout this process.

We also provide legal assistance to clients at the Family Law Courts, Children’s Court, Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal.

Other activities

Our Settled and Safe family violence prevention project uses targeted training and information sessions to increase knowledge of family law, family violence and child protection laws within new and emerging communities.

Read more about how the program is helping prevent family violence in migrant communities.