What is our Law Reform and Policy Work?

We work to influence the development of law and policy by:


  • challenging laws that unfairly impact on women experiencing violence and relationship breakdown 
  • informing and advancing policy initiatives that promote the rights of women
  • creating greater awareness and understanding of the barriers to access to justice for family violence victim survivors in the legal and family violence systems


As part of this work, we work closely with peak bodies, community legal centres and domestic violence organisations to create the greatest impact.


WLSV is also a member of Women’s Legal Services Australia, the national network of women’s legal services.


Our Policy Platform

Our work is guided by our three key policy priorities:


        1. Eliminating violence against women and their children
        2. Promoting women’s health, housing and economic security after violence and relationship breakdown
        3. Improving pathways to accessing justice


Read our Policy Platform to learn more about our policy positions and recommendations for change.

Driving cultural change through the child protection system

In 2022 Women’s Legal Service Victoria and Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre published research exploring the lived experience of mothers seeking reunification with their children within the Victorian child protection system. All of the mothers that participated in this study were victim/survivors of family violence.


Our Research Report, Stronger Together, offers new insights into the barriers to reunification and supports needed to enable children to be safely restored to the care of their family. Aligning with the Victorian Government’s commitment to transformational change, the Report provides 18 recommendations to support the child protection system in shifting towards a collaborative, strengths-based and gender-informed approach that promotes the wellbeing and safety of children.


You can read the final report here.

Our Response to the Draft National Plan

Please click here to read our response to the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.

Our Response to the Federal Budget

Please click here to read our response to the Federal Budget.

Law Reform Reports and Submissions

Justice System Response to Coercive Control

In August 2020, we developed a policy brief on the issue of justice system response to coercive control.

The brief is informed by our extensive family violence legal practice experience and in-depth understanding of Victoria’s legislative and policy landscape. It is also informed by a review of key literature and research, including the findings of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.


You can read the policy brief here.


You can read the WLSA submission on the draft National Principles to address Coercive Control, which we contributed and helped author, here.

Informing the Royal Commission into Family Violence

In 2015, Australia’s first ever Royal Commission into Family Violence commenced in Victoria.

WLSV has contributed its expertise and shared the experience of our clients in order to inform and influence the findings of the Royal Commission.

Read our submissions

Our evidence in public hearings

Our Stepping Stones Project Coordinator, Emma Smallwood, spoke to the Commission about the barriers to economic empowerment after family violence.

Our Principal Solicitor, Helen Matthews, shared her expertise of the family law system with the Commission and the challenges in having family violence recognised and responded to.

Improving Access to Justice in Family Law

In 2014 the Productivity Commission reported on its review into access to justice arrangements in the federal court. The Productivity Commission made the following key recommendations:


  • Legislative protections to stop direct cross-examination of family violence victims by their abuser in family law cases.
  • An extra $200 million to the legal assistance sector, with $120 million from the Federal Government.


Read our submission to the Productivity Commission here.


Our former Policy Manager, Pasanna Mutha-Merennege and CEO, Joanna Fletcher, were invited to speak to the Productivity Commission during their public hearings. 


Calling for Change in Family Violence System in Victoria

In 2014, WLSV was part of the No More Deaths Alliance that sought election commitments from all major political parties prior to the last state election to improve the family violence system.


Family violence became a key issue of the 2014 state election and resulted in significant policy commitments from all major political parties in line with our 25 Key Campaign Asks.


Read more about our recommendations change: