Artwork: Dolls In Arms by Aileen Kerr
Improving family safety by improving justice delivery
Over the years, the Neighbourhood Justice Centre has developed a range of practices and services that assist women who attend court as victims of family violence.
Services include Australia's first online family violence intervention order application, a one-stop-shop of specialist services delivery model, and specialised security processes.
These services were services were endorsed by the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence 2015 which recommended wide-ranging and significant changes to how the justice system respond to assisting women and children to stay safe. The Commission recommended that other courts adopt our practices.
In an Australian first, the NJC created a simple, secure online Family Violence Intervention application form. The online application enables applicants it apply of an intervention order when and where it suits their safety needs best.
We included in the design of FVIO a function to flag high risk applications to improve the Court's response to serious events.
And in order to address the significant amount of misinformation about family violence, the application includes background information, which improves people's understanding of their rights, and what behaviour constitutes family violence.
Our FVIO service improves court efficiency, and can save applicants the time, associated risks and costs of making at least one court visit.
FVIO Online is in pilot at the Hamilton, Portland, Ringwood, Sunshine, Warrnambool and Werribee Magistrates’ Courts in Victoria.
'One-stop-shop' service delivery
Applicants and respondents in family violence matters receive holistic, and highly networked treatment and support, with case management, assessment and referrals, and support put in place in rapidly. Support services include:
- Victims assistance and counselling programs
- Specialist women's support services
- Intervention Response Team, comprising Registry, mediation coordinator, and case worker/counsellor
- Support and care on the day (provided by Court Network and Salvation Army chaplain).
- Legal advice and advocacy services
- Newly arrived/refugee victims of trauma support services.
The benefits of this one-stop-shop approach include:
- Applicants and respondents receive immediate assistance.
- Women are safe, despite being in close proximity to the respondent
- Wrap-around services is a key reason we have never had a serious incident
- Legal representatives have confidence that the psycho-social needs of their clients are attended to
- Service providers transfer knowledge thereby filling services gaps, the knock-on effect is more efficient and effective service delivery.
Family violence/personal safety triage
The NJC's court hears family violence matters on Mondays, which enables the NJC to prepare the the Court and services ahead of time. This preparation takes place on the Friday before at the Family Violence Triage process.
The family violence triage process is conducted by the senior registrar, senior case worker, and mediation coordinator who ensure everything in place to meet the highly complex needs of clients. Preparation includes:
- Allocating services required
- Identifying high risk respondents and parties known to the court, and preparing management plans.
- Preparing NJC Security for expect on the day
- Measuring patterns of behaviour to develop services well in advance.
Triage concludes on Monday morning with the inclusion of any intervention orders that come in over the weekend added to the plan.
Court security works differently at this centre.
- Upon request, security escorts women to and from the building, and around the Centre
- Women can enter the building via a security protected private entrance
- One member of the security is always on patrol, and travels through the building (including offices and secure spaces) and around the perimeter.
- A member of the team is always on the court floor.
- The team works with counsellors/case workers to respond to anti-social behaviour before things escalate.
Applicants who need additional protection have use of ‘quiet rooms’.
Accessible to staff only, these rooms separate applicants from respondents. Women use the rooms to meet their lawyers, complete paperwork and wait for court. The rooms also have children's playrooms attached so children are entertained, but out of earshot of conversations that are not appropriate for little ears.