Compassionate advocacy at a time of crisis and confusion

Compassionate advocacy at a time of crisis and confusion

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

We are proud to co-ordinate the Family Advocacy and Support Services at the Melbourne and Dandenong registries of the Commonwealth family law courts. This integrated service provides people who have experienced, used or are alleged to have used family violence with help from a duty lawyer and a family violence social worker, based on-site at the courts every day.

Working together the FASS team aims to support the safety of parents and their children while their matters are dealt with by the court.

Angela’s story

Our FASS duty lawyer first met Angela (name changed for privacy reasons) at court late in the afternoon after she had been stopped at the airport from leaving Australia with her infant child. Without her knowledge, after they had separated, Angela’s ex-partner had obtained an urgent court order to prevent her leaving the country.

The situation was distressing and foreign to Angela. Angela, her ex-partner and their infant child were not residents of Australia. Angela, her parents and her baby had travelled to Australia from their country of origin on tourist visas for a three week visit at the request and arrangement of her ex-partner, who split his time travelling between Australia and another country.

Angela spoke no English and had only been in the country for a week before the relationship between the parties broke down. Angela had left her ex-partner’s accommodation and bought tickets with the majority of funds she had privately saved for her, her parents and her baby to return home. When Angela, her baby and her parents were at the airport, they were stopped by the Australian Federal Police and told that they could not travel and missed their flights.

Angela spoke no English, she was distraught and had travelled directly to the court from the airport. With the assistance of an interpreter she told our lawyer about a history of significant family violence, including a history of financial control and being assaulted when pregnant.

On Angela’s behalf our lawyer made submissions to the court about how the application by the father was an abuse of process, and that he should cover the travel costs of Angela and her family to return to their country of origin.

After the Judge confirmed they would consider the case overnight, our duty lawyer stayed with Angela to successfully negotiate an agreement with the father’s legal representative for the removal of the airport watchlist order and the payment of travel costs. One of our FASS suport services safe steps provided family violence support to Angela, to make sure she understood what was happening at court and to arrange emergency accommodation.

At court the next day Angela told our lawyer that her ex-partner had sent multiple messages throughout the night trying to find out where she was staying. He also threatened not to pay any travel costs unless Angela met him in person to hand over the money.

Angela told our lawyer that the advice and support she’d been given the previous day helped her to recognise that her ex-partner was trying to coerce her, and she refused to meet him or tell him where she was staying.

In delivering the judgment, the Judge was very critical of the father’s application and made the orders as agreed for Angela’s baby be removed from the watchlist and for the father to pay travel costs for Angela and her family. The FASS duty lawyer ensured that the money was paid to Angela at court and she is now safely in her home country with her parents and baby.

By working together, the FASS duty lawyer and family violence workers were able to support Angela through a very stressful and foreign process, to achieve a safe outcome for herself and her baby. 

More information

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

Funding has recently been provided for another three years, until 30 June 2022.

Read more about FASS to see if you qualify for assistance.

 

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