This year Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) assisted over 3000 Victorian women with free legal services. These women accessed a variety of services including legal advice, representation, financial counselling and referrals through a range of service avenues. Some women came to WLSV via our face to face legal advice clinic, others through our family violence duty lawyer service at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. Some women accessed our Link virtual outreach service through a partner organisation and others called through to our legal advice line. By providing women a diversity of access points to our services, WLSV provides Victoria’s most disadvantaged women with access to justice in a way that is safe, effective and innovative.
Link Virtual Outreach
The Link virtual outreach program brings specialist legal advice and representation to women experiencing family violence across Victoria. Link provides assistance to some of the most disadvantaged and isolated women in the state, partnering with over 20 regional social services agencies across Victoria including health centres, family violence refuges and community legal centres.
In addition to our Link partners, WLSV collaborates with and is regularly accessed by a range of family violence agencies, women’s services, community legal centres and other related providers. We provide secondary consultations in our areas of expertise to the workers and lawyers at these services ensuring that their clients receive appropriate referrals and advice, their legal issues are identified and constructive legal steps taken.
Magistrates’ Court family violence video conferencing pilot
In 2015, WLSV has partnered with the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria in its innovative video conferencing pilot. Women who may have been too afraid for their safety to come to court for their Family Violence Intervention Order hearing are given the opportunity to speak with and receive advice from a WLSV lawyer from a secure off-site venue using video conferencing technology. The women also have the benefit of support from a family violence worker who is with them at the off-site venue. The WLSV lawyer is able to represent the women at court and the women can be part of the proceedings, in the court room, through the video conferencing facilities. The pilot will continue through 2015 and 2016.
Legal information for parents going through family dispute resolution
WLSV also improves access to justice through family dispute resolution (mediation) for both men and women. Nearly 400 members of the general public attended our legal information sessions for separating parents at the Melbourne Family Relationship Centre over the past twelve months. These sessions raise awareness around separation and family violence, de-bunk myths around parenting and keep parents child focused. The legal information session gives separating parents realistic expectations about the legal system, and enables them to be better informed and engaged in the mediation sessions.
To make the legal information session more accessible and widely available, we have developed an e-learning session (e-LIS). FMC Mediation and Counselling is now using this e-LIS as part of their induction session for all parents undertaking family dispute resolution across Victoria.