Improving Access

“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.  Thank you for your effort and shining a light of hope into my life.”

Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) introduced changes to our service delivery model in November 2015, in order to make sure we can identify women with the greatest barriers to accessing justice and provide them with the most appropriate services. These changes included introducing a new intake and appointment process, which enables referring agencies to speak with a WLSV lawyer to establish whether a client can be referred for a face to face appointment. WLSV appointments also occur by phone and Skype. This “warm referral” approach has led to us seeing clients with significantly greater barriers to justice than we accessed through our former services such as the drop-in clinic.

Complex casework

The level of complexity of the cases we have taken on for ongoing legal representation has increased with this change to our service delivery model. A growing number of these matters respond to the impact on separated families of expanding globalisation. In the past year we have secured the return of children kidnapped by a parent who has relocated overseas without permission from the family law courts.  We have also assisted a woman experiencing family violence to return with her child to her country of origin, after the toddler had spent the first years of his life in a family violence refuge.

In conjunction with the findings of our Stepping Stones project, WLSV continues to identify and act in matters where women are at financial risk due to the economic abuse perpetrated by their former partners. Our lawyers have been effective, for example, in obtaining urgent injunctions from the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court preventing the depletion of superannuation funds, the major asset of the parties.

Holistic services

As our clients and their cases have become more complex, we have expanded the range of services we provide on-site to attempt to meet clients’ non-legal needs as well as their legal needs. Our clients have had the benefit of holistic co-case management between our in-house financial counsellor and our lawyers since July 2014. From September to December 2015 we were also able to offer our clients social work support, through a student social work unit from Monash University. The four students, who were supervised by a qualified social worker, set up a great model for social work support and provided practical support to clients. We are now exploring options to have social work support as part of WLSV’s suite of services.