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All family violence matters are heard and determined in specialist family violence courts

Recommendation:
061
Status:
In progress

Who is leading the change

  • Court Services Victoria

The Victorian Government legislate to ensure that, subject to exceptional circumstances and the interests of the parties, all family violence matters are heard and determined in specialist family violence courts.

  • This recommendation is interdependent with a number of other recommendations. Specifically, this recommendation is dependent on the full implementation of Recommendation 60 and relies on the work of Recommendation 70, which includes improvements to court buildings to make them fit for purpose to support safety and accessibility.  These recommendations are being progressed together to reflect these interdependencies and aim to: 

    • improve victim survivors’ experience of the court system 
    • reduce unnecessary repeat attendances at court 
    • streamline the hearing of family violence matters 

    The Specialist Family Violence Courts (SFVC) Operating Model has been approved and rolled out to the operational sites, which include Shepparton, Ballarat and Moorabbin locations. One of the core elements of this model is Powers and Listings: there will be a more consistent approach to the listing of family violence matters and operational practices across the SFVC including: 

    • listing all family violence matters to be heard and determined in the SFVC by default 
    • listing all related family violence matters to be heard together where possible 
    • ensuring the same magistrate presides over all family violence matters relating to a family, to the extent practicable and appropriate (“one family, one magistrate”) 
    • establishing a target SFVC list cap and maximum listing timeframes to facilitate the provision of a high-quality service to family members who are affected by a family violence matter 
    • allowing flexibility in SFVC listings to ensure that the circumstances of individual matters are taken into account 
    • supporting consistency in listings management across SFVC venues 
    • ensuring that the safety of families living with family violence is at the centre of court processes, including the preparation and management of SFVC lists 
  • Legislation to establish the Specialist Family Violence Courts (SFVC) received Royal Assent on 14 August 2018 (the Justice Legislation Amendment (Family Violence Protection and Other Matters) Act 2018). The amendments to establish the Specialist Family Violence Court Division in the Magistrates’ Court Act 2009 commenced on 29 March 2019. 

    This recommendation is closely linked with the roll out of the SFVC (Recommendation 60). The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria has planned a comprehensive project implementation approach to roll out the SFVC model at 5 headquarter courts across Victoria including Shepparton, Ballarat, Moorabbin, Heidelberg, and Frankston.

    The first 3 sites have been implemented as SFVCs at Shepparton, Ballarat and Moorabbin Magistrates’ Courts. The SFVC Operating Model and SFVC Listings Policy have been implemented at these sites to allow for all family violence matters to be heard and determined in specialist family violence courts. 

    The next 2 SFVC sites to be implemented as new Divisions are at Heidelberg and Frankston Magistrates’ Courts. This project is being managed by a central SFVC project team working closely with the Court Services Victoria (CSV) Assets team who are overseeing the implementation of Recommendation 70 and overseeing the construction phase for the new facilities. Commencement of these remaining 2 locations has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic however are scheduled to commence operating as SFVCs in the first half of 2021.  

  • Forecast implementation date: 31 July 2021.

Reviewed 07 January 2021

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