Safe & Protected: multidisciplinary approach to family violence

In October 2016, Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) delivered a multidisciplinary family violence professional development event to practitioners working in the Children’s Court of Victoria Family Division. The flagship two-day event that was commissioned by the Children’s Court Multi-Disciplinary Training Board was opened by Judge Amanda Chambers, President of the Children’s Court, and focused on participants acquiring new skills and knowledge while also learning from each other. The event explored the challenges of implementing professional practice guidelines, meeting the needs of vulnerable families and navigating the complex intersections between family violence, child protection and family law. 176 participants attended the event including child protection practitioners, lawyers from the community legal sector, Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) and private practice, Child Protection Litigation Office lawyers, Children’s Court staff and the judiciary. The independent evaluation of the program found that it stimulated critical reflection and discussion across the professions on the complexities of child protection cases involving family violence as well as improving the knowledge and skills of participants to work with families in this highly challenging area.

Newly arrived migrant women

This year WLSV embarked on a new project to expand the award-nominated LINK program to women from emerging migrant and refugee communities in rural Victoria. In partnership with the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights (AMWCHR), WLSV developed and delivered a program for settlement services and family violence workers in Mildura. The training increased the workers’ capacity to provide support assistance to women from emerging migrant and refugee communities who are experiencing family violence.

Funded by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, the training was attended by staff from a number of organisations including Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council, Mallee Family Care, Murray Mallee Community Legal Service, and the Mallee Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit. The relationship between the AMWCHR and WLSV strengthened substantially over the project, facilitating further coordination on existing and future projects. WLSV will continue to work in conjunction with these organisations so that women from new and emerging communities in regional Victoria have access to specialist legal assistance for family violence legal issues.

Interpreting the law

More than 40% of our clients at the Magistrates’ Court are from CALD communities. Many of these women require interpreters and it is critical for these services to be readily available at this pivotal point – when someone is attempting to get protection from a violent relationship.

In July 2016, WLSV released a report that identified a critical lack of interpreter resources for people applying for family violence intervention orders across Victoria. The report utilised WLSV’s clients’ feedback and on-the-ground experience to identify service delivery gaps for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) clients in the family violence intervention order court process. Some of the issues identified in the report affecting women include limited access to interpreters at courts causing clients to have to share interpreters with their ex-partner, the lack of family violence training for interpreters and limited translated court information onsite and online.

Since the release of the report, WLSV has been invited to participate in industry consultations and made significant contributions to the development of course curriculum for interpreter training at educational institutions. WLSV lawyers presented at the Monash University specialist courses for professional interpreters working in legal, and family violence-related settings. WLSV also contributed to the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity review of interpreter services and the development of their Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals, launched in October 2017.