On 18 February 2020, Senior Partner, Keturah Sageman and Associate, Olivia Melville attended the Family Violence Roundtable Conference 2020 hosted by the Law Institute of Victoria.
Rosie Batty, anti-domestic violence campaigner and 2015 Australian of the Year commenced the presentation through advocating for the need for systemic and attitudinal change in order to address the high prevalence of family violence which continues in Australia. Rosie shared her personal journey through the judicial system and echoed the shared sentiments amongst other victims of family violence who have faced the legal system. Rosie noted that on average, one woman per week is murdered in Australia. Rosie recognised that despite the majority of family law matters filed in Court involving allegations of family violence, a major shortfall of Australia’s judicial system is that it is not set up to adequately manage the safety concerns of victims and offers little support for victims of family violence.
Lauren Galvin and Leanne Sinclair from Victoria Legal Aid also provided an overview of the Specialist Family Violence Courts (SFVC’s) and Client Safety Framework which is currently being implemented in regional Magistrate’s Courts in Victoria. In 2016, the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommended that SFVC’s be implemented in Victoria. The Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 (Vic) was amended in 2018 to include the Specialist Family Violence Court Division. The SFVC’s are designed to support victims of family violence whilst promoting perpetrator accountability through focusing on a therapeutic model of justice. There are five SFVC’s set to open in 2020 in Shepperton, Ballarat, Moorabbin, Frankston and Heidelberg. Magistrates at the SFVC’s will be able to deal with family violence intervention orders, criminal matters, some aspects of family law and victims of crime proceedings within the one proceeding. One of the key features of the SFVC’s is that they will provide a victim centered approach which includes a separate entry point and waiting area for victims.
The conference provided a thought-provoking discussion in relation to family violence in Australia and the need for a coordinated legal response to family violence. A key theme throughout the conference was the importance of keeping prevention of family violence at the forefront of policy issues that need to be addressed in Australia in order to improve the judicial experience and system for victims of family violence.