Victoria Legal Aid

Specialist courts for a safer community

New specialist family violence courts opening in Victoria over coming months will help to create a safer community and a less confusing justice experience for people in family violence matters.

Tuesday 17 September 2019 12:00am

The opening of Victoria’s first specialist family violence courts (SFVCs) represents an important step in creating a safer community for everyone.

‘SFVCs are designed to keep families safe by supporting victims and promoting perpetrator accountability,’ Associate Director, Family Violence Response, Leanne Sinclair said.

‘This will be a more therapeutic model of justice. It should provide intensive and integrated support for people to help them have a safer and less-chaotic experience of the justice system.

‘Importantly, the courts will also focus on making sure people comply with family violence intervention orders.’

Leanne Sinclair, Associate Director, Family Violence Response

The creation of SFVCs is a direct response to recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and several other inquiries.

The Shepparton and Ballarat courts are due to open in coming months, with the Moorabbin, Frankston and Heidelberg courts scheduled to open in 2020.

The SFVCs will operate from existing court buildings, but significant work has been done to create a safer environment for everyone.

There will be separate entrances and exits for victims and alleged perpetrators, as well as new interview rooms, safe waiting areas and registry counters which are all designed to make attending court a less daunting experience.

Magistrates at SFVCs will be able to deal with family violence intervention orders, as well as criminal matters, some family law matters and victims of crime assistance tribunal proceedings.

‘We know that family violence has an impact across many areas of law, so hearing different legal matters in one dedicated court will help to reduce trauma for victims, and the complexity of the current system for everyone,’ said Leanne.

We have received specific purpose funding to co-ordinate the provision of legal services by the legal assistance sector for the SFVCs.

We are working closely with the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria as well as with our partners in community legal centres and private practice to design a legal practice model and allocate funding to meet the needs of our clients.

We have been talking to clients about their experiences of the family violence legal system and we will use their feedback to help inform our future services at SFVCs.

‘The Royal Commission into Family Violence identified that victims of family violence can find the legal system confusing and complex to navigate.

‘We want to make sure people get the help they need before, during and after they come to court,’ said Leanne.

Once finalised, the new legal practice model will be implemented across the SFVC locations as the Magistrates’ Court also introduces new practices to ensure the SFVCs provide a more intensive and therapeutic model of justice.

We look forward to continuing to support our practice partners from community legal centres and private firms to support Victorian families to be safe at court and in the community.

More information

Read more about the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family ViolenceExternal Link .

Read more about our responses to family violence.

Reviewed 14 April 2022