Responding to Legal Need
“I cannot express how much I appreciated your help and guidance. Thank you for all you do for women in need.”
At Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) we are always looking for ways to increase our impact and reach the women most in need. In 2015, WLSV produced a Legal Needs Analysis that helped identify areas of unmet legal need for women experiencing disadvantage across Victoria.
In October 2015, WLSV expanded our services to provide representation to women involved in Children’s Court proceedings at the Moorabbin Justice Centre. As part of a pilot project funded by Victoria Legal Aid, WLSV lawyers provide duty lawyer services as well as ongoing representation to women. In a number of these cases, we are also assisting the clients with representation in their related family violence and family law matters. Our capacity to provide this continuity of legal services across jurisdictions helps support women who are experiencing significant disadvantage in a complex and confusing legal landscape.
Pro bono projects
A number of prominent law firms have recognised the rising demand for our family violence services and have generously offered to assist us. This year we have started a new project in partnership with Baker & McKenzie and Colin Biggers & Paisley. Our Rebuilding Strength project connects WLSV clients, who have experienced intimate partner violence, with pro bono legal representation for their applications to the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT). With the support of training from our legal education team, our pro bono partners will also be assisting us to identify systemic issues that women experiencing family violence face in their engagement with VOCAT. These issues will inform advocacy for legal and policy change in the area.
We have also benefited from pro bono lawyers from Holding Redlich joining us in our duty lawyer service at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, representing women in the family violence intervention order list.
Empowering women with protection orders
Four days a week WLSV provides duty lawyers at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court family violence list assisting women obtain an intervention order. Over 800 women were assisted by this service in the past year.
For some women, however, the court process itself can create safety issues. The requirement to be in the same court room as their abuser can result in a number women deciding not to seek legal protection. In July 2015, WLSV partnered with Safe Steps and the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in a pilot program to respond to these barriers to justice. Utilising videoconferencing technology, WLSV provides representation to women with significant safety issues proceeding with family violence intervention order applications. Our clients are located at a family violence agency where social worker support is available. From there they can, not only access their lawyer, but also be videoconferenced into the court room, hear submissions and speak to the Magistrate, all while remaining safely in a remote location.