Reforming the courts response to family violence

We are transforming the court system to make it safer and more accessible for all people affected by family violence, including children and young people. Courts are also working to increase the accountability of people who use violence and encourage them to change their behaviour.

Specialist Family Violence Courts are the centrepiece of these reforms. They provide a trauma-informed response for people affected by family violence and give them more choice over their court experience. A team of specially trained magistrates, operational staff and family violence practitioners ensure that community members can access tailored and effective family violence services at court and beyond.

Specialist magistrates have the power to order respondents to attend approved counselling through the Court Mandated Counselling Order Program. This helps promote the safety of people affected by family violence by holding respondents accountable for their use of violence and supporting positive behaviour change.

Key activity in 2022

  • An additional seven Magistrates’ Courts were established, bringing the total number of Specialist Family Violence Courts in operation to 12. These courts are now operating at Ballarat, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Frankston, Geelong, Heidelberg, Latrobe Valley, Melbourne, Moorabbin, Ringwood, Shepparton and Sunshine. Two further specialist courts will be established in Bendigo in 2023 and Wyndham in 2025.
  • The Remote Hearing Support Service was made available at 11 Victorian Magistrates’ Courts in 2022. This service provides specialist support to affected family members to appear remotely in their family violence proceeding from a safe and confidential location.
  • The Court Mandated Counselling Order Program was rolled out to all 12 Specialist Family Violence Courts. This includes providing specialist training to judiciary and court staff. The program helps keep respondents to family violence intervention orders accountable and supports them to change their behaviour.
  • We evaluated the implementation and effectiveness of the Koori Family Violence Intervention Order Breaches pilot in Mildura to inform the further development of this pilot. The pilot allowed for breaches of FVIOs to be heard in the Mildura Koori Court, rather than the mainstream Magistrates’ Court. The pilot provides victim survivors and people who use violence with a more culturally appropriate response to reduce the impacts of family violence. It also improves court users’ perceptions of the courts and reduces recidivism.
  • The Integrated Counselling and Case Management Program was trialled and evaluated at the Ballarat Specialist Family Violence Court. This program provides integrated case management to address the complex interplay between family violence, alcohol and other drugs, and mental health issues.
  • All Victorian Specialist Family Violence Courts have continued to implement the MARAM framework and embed it into practice. The MARAM framework supports a system-wide approach to assessing and managing the risk of family violence.
  • Family violence training for interpreters was delivered over four courses to 63 participants. Feedback from this training confirmed the course had increased skills and confidence of all participants.