Safety First in Family Law

The Safety First in Family Law campaign, developed by WLSV for Women’s Legal Services Australia (WLSA), has achieved significant change this year with the federal government adopting one of its key recommendations. Both WLSV and WLSA have campaigned for years on the need to ban perpetrators of violence from directly cross-examining family violence victims in the family law courts. In May 2017, the Attorney-General announced that the Australian Government would be introducing legislation to make this recommendation a reality, a practical and important step to empower victims of violence to be able to give evidence without fear.

Parliamentary Inquiry into family violence and family law

In March 2017, the federal government invited WLSA to provide its expertise to the newly created Parliamentary Inquiry into a better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence. WLSA provided a detailed submission, written by WLSV’s Policy Manager Agata Wierzbowski, detailing the safety issues women and children face in the family law system across Australia when they are experiencing or have experienced family violence. WLSV CEO, Joanna Fletcher, and Principal Lawyer, Helen Matthews, went on to give evidence to the Parliamentary Committee. The Committee was particularly interested in our evidence that early identification and decision making about family violence could have a significant positive impact on safety.

Small Claims, Large Battles

In 2016, WLSV began a new project to investigate and document the experience of women who have few assets and very low income as they seek a property settlement through the family law system. The Small Claims, Large Battles project partners women who have small asset pools with Women’s Legal Service lawyers and pro bono lawyers from law firm Lander & Rogers who act on their behalf in property settlement cases. With the assistance of lawyers from Herbert Smith Freehills, we are documenting the significant barriers women experiencing economic hardship face in family law property settlements including cost, complexity and length of proceedings. The Small Claims, Large Battles research report will be released in early 2018 and will form the basis of a campaign to redress these barriers.

Royal Commission into Family Violence

WLSV continues to be heavily involved in providing advice to government on the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, including the development of a 10 year plan to address family violence, the design of new Support and Safety Hubs and the expansion of specialist family violence courts.

Family Violence Training for Financial Counsellors

WLSV has been engaged by Consumer Affairs Victoria to develop a two-part family violence training module for financial counsellors. We are pleased to be partnering with WIRE Women’s Information on this project, which will create foundational and advanced training units to assist financial counsellors to better understand the dynamics of family violence and work effectively with clients experiencing family violence. This project builds on the specialist expertise we have developed in working with women impacted by financial abuse and the economic consequences of all forms of family violence, commencing with our award-winning Stepping Stones project in 2014.