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.
Recommendation 61 supports greater access to Specialist Family Violence Court services and is closely linked to the implementation of Recommendation 60. These recommendations have been progressed together to reflect these interdependencies and together will help to:
- improve victim survivors’ safety at court
- foster great participation of victim survivors’ in the court process
- improve victim survivors’ experience of the court system
- reduce unnecessary repeat attendances at court
- streamline the hearing of family violence matters
- improve access to specialist support services.
The Magistrates’ Court Act (1989) (the has been amended to make the designation of a SFVC Division easier, noting previously the venues were specifically named in legislation. The Act was amended by the Justice Legislation Amendment (Family Violence Protection and Other Matters) Act to ensure this could be done by way of Government Gazette by the Attorney-General in consultation with the Court and enabling any court to be gazetted as an SFVC Division should it meet the operational requirements.
All Magistrates’ Court of Victoria headquarter courts are in the process of becoming part of the SFVC Division. SFVCs at Shepparton, Ballarat, Moorabbin, Heidelberg, Frankston, Melbourne, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Geelong, Latrobe Valley, Ringwood and Sunshine are now gazetted and operational.
It is anticipated that new court venues at Bendigo will join the SFVC Division in 2023 and at Wyndham in 2025. In addition, the Mildura Magistrates Court (not a headquarter court) currently has specialist family violence staff, including Koori men’s and women’s practitioners and some enhanced safety features.
The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria has implemented additional initiatives to provide greater support to more Victorians, including remotely and online and via:
- the Family Violence Intervention Order Online Form, allowing victim survivors greater choice and flexibility when making their application. The Online Form is available statewide for new applications and is being expanded to offer extend, vary and revoke functions
- the Family Violence Contact Centre supports ten courts by streamlining advice for affected family members, respondents, legal services and police1
- the capability to hear matters online, which allows victim survivors to participate in their matter from a safe, remote location via an audiovisual link
- remote hearing facilities expansion to ten non-court locations across Victoria
- expansion of the Umalek Balit practitioner support model
- the Pre-Court Engagement Pilot, which supports parties with early referrals to legal and other supports, ensures matters are ready to proceed at their hearing date and in some cases, supports early resolution of matters.
The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria will continue to implement initiatives, including local court enhancements and digital programs, to ensure Victorians have the best access to specialist family violence responses across the state.
1The Family Violence Contact Centre supports the following courts: Ballarat, Dandenong, Frankston, Geelong, Heidelberg, Melbourne, Moorabbin, Ringwood, Shepparton and Sunshine Magistrates’ Courts.
Reviewed 27 January 2023