Addressing legal problems crucial for a strong, healthy and resilient Latrobe Valley

Addressing legal problems crucial for a strong, healthy and resilient Latrobe Valley

Monday, 4 February 2019

A new report shows the justice system is struggling to meet the needs of the Latrobe Valley community, and specific measures to address legal problems are essential for building sustainable economic and social growth.

Equal justice for a strong, healthy and resilient Latrobe Valley has been released by the Gippsland Legal Assistance Forum (GLAF), to inform our collective work to help improve the support and legal services provided in the region.

GLAF is comprised of Victoria Legal Aid (VLA), Djirra, Gippsland Community Legal Service (GCLS) and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS).

‘We are committed to ensuring our clients right across the state are supported to address their legal problems and live fulfilling, productive lives,' said VLA CEO, Louise Glanville.

'Ultimately these recommendations are designed to reduce rates of family violence, improve health, and boost the supply of safe and affordable housing to contribute to a healthier and happier Latrobe Valley community for everyone.’

Louise Glanville, VLA CEO

Our practice experience, data and client stories demonstrate that the level of disadvantage and legal need in the Latrobe Valley is higher than other parts of the state, demand for legal and other support services is not being met and the court system is not keeping up. This is very challenging for the local community.

The report shows:

  • The Latrobe local government area has the highest rates of family violence incidents per population in the state.
  • The Latrobe local government area has the second highest rate of criminal incidents per population in Victoria, after Melbourne.
  • The rate of child protection reports in the Gippsland region is more than double that of the state-wide average.

‘This inaugural report highlights the crucial need for additional, and better resourced, legal and support services in the Latrobe Valley,' said Michelle Taranto, Program Manager, Gippsland Community Legal Service, Anglicare.

'Continued advocacy on behalf of disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the Latrobe Valley community, as well as the development of legal sector planning programs, must be a priority to ensure people receive the advice and support they need.’ 

Michelle Taranto, Program Manager, Gippsland Community Legal Service, Anglicare

We strongly support the current focus on community-led regional planning and investment in the Latrobe Valley, as this presents a genuine opportunity to make sure all members of the community are supported to contribute and participate in an equal way.

When people miss out on early support and opportunities, it increases their vulnerability and risk of facing a legal problem. Legal problems can also cause health and social issues, such as stress-related illness, physical ill health, relationship breakdown, loss of income, or financial strain.

‘Family violence is rife in the Latrobe Valley and this long overdue report confirms what we already know. There is a continuing over-representation of Aboriginal children in the child protection system and an extremely high level of family violence, 88 per cent of Aboriginal children in out of home care, in Victoria, are there because of family violence.'

Antoinette Braybook, Djirra CEO

'Djirra is proud to be a part of the Gippsland Legal Assistance Forum to address these issues and we will continue to work with legal and non-legal, Aboriginal and mainstream agencies in the Latrobe Valley to improve access to justice for Aboriginal women and their children.’

We have made 12 recommendations for change, including:

  • Include explicit measures to address access to justice issues and legal problems in local regional planning, funding and policy decisions.
  • Map current gaps in support services, like drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs or parenting help, with the goal of reducing waitlists and intervening earlier.
  • Invest in culturally safe legal services, including Aboriginal community-controlled organisations.
  • Establish a clear intake, triage and referral process to legal services in The Orange Door support and safety hub to help address family violence earlier.
  • Increase social housing stock and plan for future accommodation needs as part of the Latrobe Valley economic development agenda.
  • Provide additional resources to increase capacity and reduce delays in the Latrobe Valley courts.

‘Aboriginal communities still experience severe and frequent family violence, poor health and homelessness, and we hope that the state government takes heed of this report to improve the experiences of our communities in the Latrobe Valley.'

Wayne Muir, VALS CEO

We hope this report and its recommendations will ensure the links between health, economic and legal issues are recognised and addressed in development plans for the region.

Download the report

Download Equal justice for a strong, healthy and resilient Latrobe Valley (pdf, 1.39 MB) or the accessible Word version (docx, 1.28 MB).

Media contacts

Victoria Legal Aid media contact: Naomi Woodley, Senior Communications Advisor, 0409 281 304, Naomi.Woodley@vla.vic.gov.au

Djirra media contact: Amanda Bresnan, Acting Manager, Strategy and Policy, 0448 060 765, eo@fvpls.org

GCLS media contact: Grania Sheehan, Principal Lawyer, 0405 454 164, grania.sheehan@anglicarevic.org.au

VALS media contact: Nerita Waight, Director of Executive and Corporate Services, 03 9418 5999, nwaight@vals.org.au

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