Women Legal Service Victoria’s front-line work places us in a unique position to influence change across the whole of the family violence and family law systems. Our clients’ experiences highlight women’s unequal access to justice. Their powerful stories inform the work we do to effect change in the legal system and in the wider community. We are currently in the midst of an important public discussion regarding family violence and violence against women. The appointment of family violence survivor and advocate Rosie Batty as the Australian of the Year is testament to the rising visibility of this issue.
No More Deaths
In August 2014 we joined forces with Victoria’s leading family violence organisations to participate in the No More Deaths campaign. This campaign called on the state’s political parties to commit to wide-ranging policies across housing, justice, police, health, education and other portfolios to keep women and children safe in Victoria. No More Deaths was very successful in securing state election commitments from all major political parties on reform of the family violence system. These election commitments have resulted in family violence applicant support workers and respondent support workers being based at all headquarter courts in Victoria and a safety audit of all Magistrates’ Courts having commenced.
Greater access to justice for women
The Productivity Commission’s report into access to justice arrangements featured the key issues that we raised in our submission and our evidence to the commission. Our advocacy focused on promoting greater access to justice for women in family law proceedings. In particular the Commission’s recommendations included the need for an increase in funding to legal aid, removing the restriction on community legal centres undertaking advocacy work and introducing legislation to protect vulnerable witnesses.
Royal Commission into Family Violence
WLSV has focused on the Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2015 with an emphasis on reform to the family violence justice system. The Royal Commission has a “once in a life time” opportunity to delve deeply into the systemic issues that place women and their children at risk and deny them equality and the realisation of their rights. We provided three submissions to the Commission focusing on economic abuse and family violence, multi-jurisdictional issues, and the family violence legal system. Through the submissions process we captured the voices of our clients, our lawyers and recommended long term change to the family violence system. Two WLSV staff members gave evidence to the Royal Commission drawing on these submissions.