Meeting the demand for family law services

Meeting the demand for family law services

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

In collaboration, Women’s Legal Service Victoria and Victoria Legal Aid have conducted a state-wide analysis (docx, 530.98 KB) of the pressures being felt in the family law sector and are now pleased to share the report with you.

‘To improve family law legal services in Victoria, we need to better understand what clients need,’ said Brigid Jenkins, Acting Associate Director, Family Law.

‘By working with our colleagues at Women’s Legal to identify the challenges clients face, we can make the evidence-based and collaborative services decisions we need to, in order to support the community.’

‘As the only state-wide community legal service providing complete specialist family law assistance and representation, demand for our services has long outstripped our capacity,’ said Helen Matthews, Legal and Policy Director, Women’s Legal.

‘The report confirms what we already believed: vulnerable and disadvantaged people experiencing relationship breakdown, especially women, do not have access to the family law services and expertise they need to rebuild their lives and their children’s lives, safely.’

This review found that demand for family law legal help in Victoria is on the rise, with the cases also increasing in complexity.

Compounding these challenges, the report showed there are declining numbers of private practitioners offering legal aid family law services and limited capacity by community legal centres to provide support.

To inform the review, we conducted five workshops with our project partners, bringing in key sector stakeholders during a sixth workshop to reflect on the analysis’ findings and contribute to recommendations.

A way forward

The report has already led to the Family Law Access Pilot project, which has been operational for the past six months, assisting people with family law matters.

Women’s Legal is leading a capacity building program to support Brimbank-Melton Community Legal Centre, WEstjustice and Barwon Community Legal Service establish comprehensive family law practices, including litigation.

The program has been developed by Women’s Legal lawyers and educators based on competency-based learning and development programs, providing training, supervision of case work, shadowing and communities of practice.

‘While the pilot project will run for two years, a long-term goal is to create a model to build community legal centre (CLC) family law capacity across the state in future years,’ said Brigid.

This project is being supported by National Legal Assistance Partnership funding allocated to the initiative by the Victorian Government.

We are developing an implementation plan for the additional recommendations which include considering opportunities to expand family law service provision, improving Victoria Legal Aid family law practice, working more collaboratively across the sector and supporting CLCs to increase their comprehensive family law services.

More information

If you have any queries, please contact Natalie Stevens, Manager Family Law Projects, on fyclprojects@vla.vic.gov.au.

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