This package of information highlights what government has done so far, and what it intends to do over the coming three years, to reform the court response to family violence, including transforming accessibility and services for victim survivors and keeping perpetrators in view:
- Priority area overview summarises what government is doing and shows how court reform activities support the achievement of the Family Violence Outcomes Framework (FVOF) as we continue to implement Royal Commission recommendations
- Achievements since 2016 showcases key achievements during RAP1
- Rolling action plan 2020 – 2023 sets out the activities government proposes to deliver for this priority over the next three years
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts reflects on how coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted court reform initiatives
- Reform principles shows how the three reform principles (Aboriginal self-determination, lived experience and intersectionality) have been considered in planning how to inform the court response to family violence.
NOTE: An accessible word version and high resolution PDF of this information is also available to view and download below.
Demand for court family violence hearings is expected to continue to increase over the short to medium term while efforts continue to bring about generational behaviour change. Reforms to victim survivors’ and perpetrators’ court experience is a major element of Victoria’s family violence reform. The courts family violence reform program is delivering a new family violence response model, including the flagship Specialist Family Violence Courts (SFVC) program. However, the activities are more wide-ranging: courts innovations will transform justice accessibility and servicing, providing a trauma-informed response for victim survivors and keeping perpetrators in view.
How we are reforming the court response to family violence
The Family Violence Outcomes Framework (FVOF)
The FVOF articulates the government’s vision to end family violence; the four domains reflect the long term outcomes sought through the collective efforts of the reform. The domains represent the key priorities in preventing and responding to family violence and clarifying what constitutes success.
Activities in this priority area will likely have the greatest impact in achieving outcomes against the following highlighted FVOF domains:
Royal Commission into Family Violence (RCFV)
With more than two-thirds of the Family Violence Royal Commission recommendations now implemented, delivery of activities under this priority over the next three years will continue to support recommendation implementation. Updates will continue to be provided via the vic.gov.au website.
We have established specialist courts and remote hearing trials:
- Three Specialist Family Violence Courts are now fully operational at Ballarat, Moorabbin and Shepparton.
- Two Specialist Family Violence Courts are under construction at Frankston and Heidelberg.
- Several features of the Specialist Family Violence Courts will be incorporated into the redevelopment of the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court.
- The Remote Hearing Pilot launched in July 2019 is increasing victim survivor safety at the Geelong Magistrates’ Court.
Safety and support
We have improved victim survivors’ court experience:
- Family violence matters are heard by a specialist magistrate at all headquarter courts to provide a trauma-informed court experience.
- Dedicated family violence practitioners are at every headquarter court for both victim survivors and perpetrators, including LGBTIQ practitioners.
- Statewide rollout of the Family Violence Intervention Order online form is making the application process more accessible for victim survivors.
- Umalek Balit is available at Melbourne, Mildura and Shepparton Magistrates’ Courts, offering culturally relevant support to Aboriginal women and men through the court experience.
- New Court Mandated Counselling Order Program have been rolled out across the five Specialist Family Violence Court sites, allowing specialist family violence magistrates to order male perpetrators of family violence to attend men’s behaviour change programs.
- The new Family Violence Contact Centre is improving the availability of timely and consistent advice. There have been more than 130,000 inquiries to the Contact Centre since its launch in May 2018.
- The Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework (MARAM) is being implemented jointly across the Magistrates’ and Children’s Court to increase the safety and wellbeing of Victorian families by effectively assessing, identifying and managing family violence risk.
We are making changes to the way courts run:
- Specialist Family Violence Court Division have been established under legislation, including specialist family violence magistrates and registrars.
- Related matters are heard together before the same magistrate (where possible) through a new listings Policy.
- New operational policies include target maximum number of family violence matters listed per day, allowing for magistrates to have more time to develop a personalised approach to keep victim survivors safe and hold perpetrators to account, and fast tracking of family violence criminal matters. These policies are recently implemented and will be further refined and developed.
- A dedicated team shares information across family violence partner agencies to enhance risk assessment and risk management.
We are building the capabilities of the court workforce:
- 300 court employees received family violence related training between July and December 2019.
- The Family Law Demonstration Project has been established to better understand what is needed to achieve best practice, to improve the safety of those living with family violence and to help families navigate the family and state courts.
NB: Timeline milestones have been included where applicable; text in panels indicates an ongoing and/or non date specific activity.
Service delivery adaptation, learnings and innovations during coronavirus (COVID-19)
The most significant impact for the courts service delivery has been a shift from face-to-face to remote (video, telephone and online) format for court services, where appropriate. As social distancing efforts to contain coronavirus (COVID-19) came into full effect, Magistrates’ Court of Victoria venues remained open, however, non-urgent matters were adjourned to reduce the number of people in court buildings. Family violence matters continue to be heard and urgent and high-risk matters are prioritised.
NB: This is an interim summary of the impacts, adaptations and innovations which have arisen as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). These will continue to be monitored and considered as the final RAP2 is developed.
Impact on court operations and support services:
- pilot of the new Online Magistrates’ Court, to provide the capability to hear matters via the WebEx secure online platform, where appropriate; this is still in the early stages of development and will begin to hear family violence matters in the coming weeks
- shift to video appearances for family violence matters (where appropriate)
- family violence practitioner support services provided over the phone (where appropriate)
- Court Mandated Counselling Order Program group-work ceased and, where appropriate, shifted to online and phone delivery; bridging support also developed with Family Safety Victoria and service providers
- fast-tracked statewide rollout of the Family Violence Intervention Order Online Form; applications can be made via the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria website
- duty lawyers not attending court resulted in fewer referrals to legal services; to resolve this, court staff are seeking consent from court users to provide their contact details to legal services
- increase in volume and length of calls to the Family Violence Contact Centre; most calls are in relation to existing matters before the court such as changed dates
- increase in requests to the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme team
- magistrates and court staff work in a teams environment with one team on site at court and the other team working from home over alternate weeks.
- limited capacity to use Specialist Family Violence Court safe waiting areas
- fewer on-site staff at court locations resulting in a reduced capacity to deliver the full specialist service in place at Specialist Family Violence Courts.
- workforce training moved to online delivery
- the establishment of the Heidelberg and Frankston SFVCs has been impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19); the scheduled commencement date for both sites may be impacted
- evaluation of Magistrates’ Court of Victoria-led family violence reforms has been impacted with a final report now expected in 2023, instead of 2022.
We have considered the principles that underpin the reform in designing an entirely new family violence court response model.
- A Family Violence Consultant position within the Family Violence Branch at the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria advises on lived experience for affected family members.
- Court and service users are consulted during evaluations, such as the Remote Hearing Pilot Evaluation and the Evaluation of the MCV-led Family Violence Reform.
- Umalek Balit is a dedicated service for Aboriginal Victorians.
- The LGBTIQ Practitioner program, which runs out of the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood, provides specialised practitioner support to the LGBTIQ community.
- Both of these programs reflect the trauma-informed approach to family violence.
- Umalek Balit, which means Give Strength in Woiwurrung, is designed to address the specific barriers faced by Aboriginal Victorians in participating in Victoria’s family violence justice system; the service includes women’s and men’s practitioners who work with Aboriginal women and men to guide them through the court experience and offer culturally relevant non-legal expertise regarding family violence matters.
- Umalek Balit:
- builds the court’s knowledge of Aboriginal people in Victoria
- provides culturally safe and appropriate support, information and referrals to services
- improves the court’s capacity to engage with Aboriginal respondents and applicants in family violence matters
- improves the Victorian Aboriginal community’s confidence in the courts and justice system.
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