New Family Violence Pilot Program

Hume Riverina Community Legal Service is proud to be the recipient of funding from Victoria Legal Aid for a pilot project providing continuity of service for people with family violence issues. The grant will enable us to provide family law assistance to clients going through the Magistrates Court for intervention order matters, so that they will receive timely and ongoing help to resolve any parenting or property disputes that may be interrelated with the family violence issues.

Family violence is a significant issue in the community that we serve. In North East Victoria, in areas such as Wodonga, Wangaratta and Benalla, the rates of family violence are up to 2 ½ times the state average. Assisting people experiencing family violence has always been an important part of our work.

During the 2015/16 financial year, family law and family violence issues were at the top of the list in relation to casework (or ongoing assistance) services we provided. Over 55% of all of our casework had family violence indicators.

Our duty lawyers that attend the Wodonga, Wangaratta and Myrtleford Magistrates Courts hear firsthand how clients feel when they are in Court dealing with their intervention order matter. For many, this is the first time they have been to Court, or dealt with the legal system.  Facing this while dealing with the stress of the relationship breakdown, having to sort out housing issues, separate their finances, work out the arrangements for the kids, and a raft of other issues that can arise upon separation is often simply overwhelming.

This pilot will assist these clients by providing a clear pathway for legal assistance with their family law issues, supporting them  when they need it the most, and hopefully preventing disputes from escalating.

We will be able to work with other community services to ensure that clients receive not only legal, but non legal assistance as well. This means that families who are impacted by family violence will be supported as much as possible to enable them to move forward with their lives.

We will work with our local partners to ensure that people are able to access our services when they need them, including staff at the Magistrates Courts and Federal Circuit Court, Police, private lawyers and other service providers such as family violence workers who provide critical support to people experiencing family violence.

There is no Victoria Legal Aid office in our catchment area and this grant funding provided by Victoria Legal Aid will go a long way towards ensuring that people with family violence issues are able to get help with their family law issues. We are pleased to pilot this new project in a regional setting, alongside Peninsula Community Legal Centre who will pilot the project in Frankston.

Read the Victoria Legal Aid media release here.

This project was officially launched in Wodonga on 9 November by Judge Hartnett, Magistrate O’Callaghan and Victoria Legal Aid.

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Originally published 16 December 2016