New training and legal information resources for Specialist Family Violence Courts

New training and legal information resources for Specialist Family Violence Courts

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

We are developing a new training program and legal information resources in the next stage of our project to support Victoria’s Specialist Family Violence Courts (SFVC).

In collaboration with the courts, police, community legal centres and the family violence service system, we have a comprehensive program of work underway to ensure people at SFVC receive legal services which are easy to access, safe to use and integrated with family violence services.

‘Since we began this project, we have developed and implemented a model for legal services at the five SFVC and created new roles to better support people with family violence legal needs,’ said Leanne Sinclair, Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) Associate Director, Family Violence Response.

‘These include our information and referral officers (IROs) in Shepparton, Ballarat and Moorabbin, and a new Aboriginal community engagement officer in Ballarat.

‘The next steps recently approved by our steering committee will focus on ongoing training needs, and new ways for people with family violence legal needs to access information about the court process and earlier access to legal services.’

Improving legal information about family violence

We know clients can find the legal system confusing and that it is often unclear what to expect in the court process.

We are working with a range of people with a lived experience of family violence and the legal system to develop new online information resources for the public.

‘Clients have told us that they need information tailored to the individual steps or stages in the legal process, including preparing for court, what to expect from the duty lawyer service, and what happens after an order is put in place.’ 

Leanne Sinclair, VLA Associate Director, Family Violence Response

‘We are exploring new ways to present information to meet the needs of different groups in the community including culturally and linguistically diverse clients and people with disabilities.’

These new resources will be available in early 2022.

Supporting trauma-informed legal services  

We are continuing to examine how we can help people with family violence legal needs to access services as early as possible.

‘The next steps will include our IROs mapping services available at each court location to identify the ways clients are referred to and between different organisations, including legal, family violence, and other social services, like health or housing providers,’ said Leanne.

‘Improving our shared understanding of these referral pathways will ultimately reduce the number of times a client will have to tell their story to different services.’

A strategy to guide our learning and development training program has also been created in consultation with lived experience representatives, staff from family violence services, lawyers and non-legal staff and magistrates.

‘We’ve consulted with a diverse group of people with a lived experience of family violence and the legal system, as well as surveyed legal and court staff to understand their needs for additional training,’ said Leanne.

‘This process has highlighted that staff would benefit from additional training on delivering culturally safe services, as well as ways to identify and respond to related legal issues for family violence clients, including migration, tenancy and social security matters.

‘We are now developing a new e-Learning program to ensure staff working at SFVC locations understand the intersectional issues facing people with family violence legal needs, and how to respond to those issues in a trauma-informed way,’ said Leanne.

All staff who work with clients at SFVC locations will be encouraged to participate in the training program once it has been developed, which is due to be completed next year.

More information

If you have any questions, please contact SFVC Project Co-ordinator Brea Acton at brea.acton@vla.vic.gov.au.

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