Responding to Legal Need
Targeting our services
Demand for our services continues to exceed our capacity to meet that demand and we made a conscious decision in 2014 to target our finite resources to women in greatest need of legal assistance and cases where we can have the most impact. These factors are reflected in our casework guidelines, which we have continued to develop and apply this year.
Client representation service
With the assistance of pro bono counsel, we have been able to respond at short notice to the urgent legal needs of women referred to our service. We have taken on a number of challenging cases, providing ongoing legal representation to women who are facing severe disadvantage. These cases require a high degree of legal expertise as they often involve complex family law issues. Offering this service allows WLSV to tackle those complex legal issues for women otherwise excluded from legal representation and unlikely to be able to navigate the legal system without it.
Some of these cases include assisting a survivor of family violence struggling to respond to Hague Convention proceedings in the Family Court of Australia, providing representation to a young mother facing court at the very sensitive time of her terminally ill baby’s hospitalisation, and representing a refugee who experienced family violence and had previously been in detention on Christmas Island in complex family law proceedings.
Reaching the women who need us most
The legal needs analysis we completed last year identified geographic hotspots for women experiencing barriers to justice as well as issues facing client groups with particular barriers to accessing our service. We have extended our reach through new partnerships with organisations in rural and regional Victoria, including Bendigo, Shepparton and the Mallee. We have also committed to developing new Link partnerships over the next 12 months with specialist services working with newly arrived women, young women and women in prison.
The impact of family violence remains a dominating factor in our courts and over 70% of WLSV clients have experienced family violence. Over the past five years the number of family violence intervention matters heard at the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court (MMC) has increased by almost 50%. WLSV duty lawyers provide advice and representation at MMC each day of the Family Violence Intervention Order list. Providing women access to free legal advice and representation as they seek family violence intervention order proceedings is pivotal to help bring about the early resolution of family violence matters and improve the safety of women and children. This year WLSV assisted almost 850 women through this four day per week outreach service.