Stepping Stones

    The Stepping Stones Project

    We commenced the Stepping Stones project to assist women experiencing family violence and financial hardship.

    Women in Australia are still at significantly higher risk of poverty than men. Research shows women who experience family violence are at even greater risk of financial hardship than women who have not experienced violence. The major cause of homelessness for women is family violence.

    In addition to these alarming facts, we observed, through our direct legal services for women, the failure of the legal system, financial institutions and essential service providers to recognise the impact of family violence on financial stability.

    We observed there was no recognition of the ability of the perpetrator to use poverty (or the threat of poverty) to control a victim. Neither is there recognition of why it would be difficult or even impossible for the victim, in that context, to regain economic security, or in some cases even flee family violence. 

    How we help

    In 2014 we established a new holistic model of service, bringing together financial counselling with family law legal advice.

    We developed new ways of advocating for our clients – pushing courts, government departments and creditors to take into account our client’s experience of family violence and financial hardship when making decisions that impact their economic well-being.

    As at September 2015 we have assisted over 200 women through the Stepping Stones project, and amongst other achievements, we have succeeded in having their collective debt reduced by over $300,000. One quarter of these women had debt that was accrued by an abusive partner against their wishes, without their knowledge, without understanding or under duress. 

    See Our Services page to find out how to get help.

    Changing the system

    In addition to examining the issues experienced by our clients, we also conducted in-depth interviews with 30 women about their experiences and surveyed 40 community sector workers to identify what the major legal barriers women face in achieving economic equality are.

    We used this data to inform our landmark research report – Stepping Stones: Legal barriers to economic equality after family violence. Read our research report here.

    Stepping Stones makes 27 recommendations for robust reform to industry practice and the law, in order to end financial hardship following family violence. We are now meeting with government and industry to make these recommendations a reality.

    The Stepping Stones project is a WLSV initiative funded by the Legal Services Board.

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    What's News

    Funding cuts

    21 December 2016

    Women’s Legal Service Victoria is devastated to learn that we face $200K funding cut from the federal government in July 2017.

    Media release can be read here. 

    Critical lack of interpreters at courts for family violence victims

    2 December 2016

    A new research report released by Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) has identified a critical lack of interpreter resources for people applying for a family violence intervention order. This finding is confirmed in the Victorian Government’s Access to Justice Review Report released on 4 October 2016.

    Read the report here

    Submission in response to inquiry into implementation of the Children's, Youth and Families Amendment (Permanent Care and other matters) Act 2014

    25 November 2016

    Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) has identified a number of unintended consequences created by recent changes to child protection law in Victoria. In its submission to the Victorian Commission for Children and Young People, WLSV outlined some of the key reasons why recent legal changes intended to provide more timely and permanent care arrangements for vulnerable children haven’t worked.

    The changes were made by the Children, Youth and Families Amendment (Permanent Care and Other Matters) Act 2014 and took effect in March 2016. 

    Read the submission here.