“Thank you so much for the incredible training that you delivered in the Safer Families Program. The training is absolutely the best training I have ever done in the 10 years that I have been practicing. I wish I had done it earlier in my career.”
Safer Families is a comprehensive professional development program for community legal centre lawyers run by Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) that focuses on family violence and family law. The program is funded by Victoria Legal Aid and includes competency based training, continuing professional development and mentoring.
Commencing in 2013, Safer Families aims to build the capacity of community legal centre lawyers to provide high quality effective advice and representation to people experiencing family violence. This program was a response to the significant increase in demand that community legal centres across Victoria were facing in regards to family violence matters in the courts. The increased attention to the issue of family violence by Victoria Police, with family violence incident reports having increased by over 115% in the past decade, has led to a significant growth in the number of intervention order applications. Safer Families provides systematic practice support to help ensure the provision of consistent high quality services to clients.
This year the program expanded the continuing professional development sessions by engaging external experts including barristers and Magistrates to provide comprehensive insights on best practice in representing clients in family violence matters.
In May 2015, Safer Families partnered with Deakin University’s Centre for Rural and Regional Law and Justice to facilitate a digital interactive discussion forum on family violence, family law and safety of children. Supervising Family Violence magistrate Kate Hawkins and WLSV Principal Lawyer and accredited Family Law Specialist Helen Matthews answered questions and discussed the laws around the intersection of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 with the Family Law Act 1975. The forum was shared live from Deakin’s Melbourne City Centre to 10 regional Victorian videoconferencing venues, as well as being streamed online.
This year we have established a network of past participants to allow the sharing of comradery, support and continued learning from each other’s experiences. Participants value the Safer Families program highly and continue to report that they use the knowledge and skills in their practice to achieve safer outcomes for their clients.