Victoria Legal Aid

More effective responses to gender inequality including sex discrimination and family violence

Family violence is one of our strategic advocacy and law reform priorities for 2014–15.

We are committed to contributing to system wide change that promotes gender equality and assists in reducing the incidence of sex discrimination and family violence.

There is a strong link between sex discrimination and family violence. The causes of family violence are deeply embedded in community attitudes about power and the role of women in our society. To stop family violence, we need to address attitudes that lead to sex discrimination. Our strategic advocacy work focuses on addressing the cause as well as the consequences of gender inequality.

What is sex discrimination?

People in Victoria continue to experience inequality, sexual harassment and discrimination in many parts of their lives.

The Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 2010 protect people from unfair treatment on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

These Acts also protect workers with family responsibilities and make sexual harassment against the law.

What is family violence?

Family violence is harmful behaviour that is used to control, threaten, force or dominate a family member through fear. It includes:

  • physical abuse, such as hitting or pushing a person
  • sexual abuse, such as forcing a person to have sex
  • emotional or psychological abuse, such as controlling who a person can see and when, or calling them names
  • financial abuse, such as controlling a person's money without their consent.

Why this is a strategic priority

Victoria Legal Aid provides a leading role in co-ordinating the provision of legal services. We are the largest provider of family violence services in Victoria.

To ensure we have more effective responses to gender inequality and family violence, it is important that our service delivery is complemented by strategic advocacy that contributes to system-wide change to:

  • assist in reducing gender inequality, including incidents of sex discrimination and family violence
  • assist in reducing the incidence of family violence
  • effectively support and protect people at risk of family violence or who are experiencing family violence promote offender accountability by addressing the causes of family violence and offending
  • ensure that victims of family violence are better protected and accommodated in other parts of the legal system, including child support, social security, infringements and discrimination.

Our advocacy work

Our advocacy work focuses on:

  • reform proposals that respond to safety concerns for self-represented litigants in family law matters where family violence is an issue
  • adolescents who perpetrate family violence
  • strengthening the identification of family violence across services
  • providing tailored services that are informed by an understanding of how family violence affects a person’s decisions and ability to access legal advice
  • analysing the impact that proposed law, policy or procedure changes may have on:
    • people who have experienced family violence
    • the incidence of family violence
    • advocating for stronger legal protection for people affected by family violence in relation to child support, social security, infringements, and discrimination
    • strengthening legal protection against sex and pregnancy discrimination in Victorian and Commonwealth laws.

Our services

We provide advice and representation to applicants in discrimination and sexual harassment cases.

We co-ordinate duty lawyer services for family violence intervention order matters across all Victorian Magistrates’ Courts, and provide legal assistance to clients at the Family Law Courts, Children’s Court, Federal Circuit Court of Australia and Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal.

We refer clients to family violence workers, accommodation services, drug and alcohol counselling and men’s behavioural change programs throughout this process.

Other activities

Our Settled and Safe family violence prevention project uses targeted training and information sessions to increase knowledge of family law, family violence and child protection laws within new and emerging communities.

Read more about how the program is helping prevent family violence in migrant communitiesExternal Link .

Many of our law reform submissions are available through the VLA public law library catalogueExternal Link .

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at

Reviewed 17 March 2022

In this section