A passionate commitment to the prevention of family violence

A passionate commitment to the prevention of family violence

Emma Smallwood, Acting Program Manager, Family Violence
Emma Smallwood, Acting Program Manager, Family Violence

Giving a greater focus on safety in the family law system is one of Emma Smallwood’s great passions.

Emma joined Victoria Legal Aid in August this year and is currently the Acting Program Manager, Family Violence. Emma has extensive experience in family violence legal practice and law reform, including giving evidence at the recent Victorian Royal Commission.

‘Better recognition of the financial implications of family violence has been a key focus of my career to-date and better utilisation of family law remedies to correct these inequities has been a key part of my practice as a family lawyer,’ Emma says.

Earlier this year, Emma was awarded the Law Institute of Victoria’s Community Lawyer of the Year. The award recognised her enormous effort in authoring Stepping Stones — a legal research report on the economic impacts of family violence.

Family violence impacts on almost all of the legal issues Victoria Legal Aid assists with, across the organisation.

‘Because of the cross-organisational nature of family violence legal issues, the family violence program provides training and family violence specific support to all Victoria Legal Aid staff, to ensure we are delivering high-quality family violence legal services.

‘The family violence sub-program also engages in targeted law reform and community legal education work; including our Royal Commission evidence and submission and our highly successful Settled and Safe project.’

The next 12 months is a particularly critical time for Victoria Legal Aid to influence the design and implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

‘This work is likely to have a significant and lasting impact on the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable Victorians for years to come. We have an opportunity to contribute to the development of one of the best legal responses to family violence in the world.

‘The family violence program aims to increase Victoria Legal Aid’s capacity to respond to family violence legal need and deliver high quality legal representation to those who use and experience violence, in a way that understands the dynamics and context of family violence and trauma, and does not condone violence.

‘This area of legal work is still an emerging field, I’m proud to say that we are one of the organisations leading the development of this new field within the law. I’m keen to see Victoria Legal Aid continue to work with a range of experts in the field to develop best ​practice family violence lawyering.’

More information 

Our submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence made 35 recommendations for improving the legal response to family violence and maximising the effectiveness of legal services and court intervention to interrupt the cycle of violence. Read our submission.

Read more about the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

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