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Extend the functions of Family Violence Court Division courts to other courts

Recommendation:
060
Status:
Implemented

Who is leading the change

  • Court Services Victoria

The Victorian Government ensure that all Magistrates’ Court of Victoria headquarter courts and specialist family violence courts have the functions of Family Violence Court Division courts. These courts should therefore have:

  • specialist magistrates, registrars, applicant and respondent workers to assist parties in applications for family violence intervention orders and any subsequent contravention proceedings
  • dedicated police prosecutors and civil advocates
  • facilities for access to specialist family violence service providers and legal representation for applicants and respondents
  • power to make counselling orders under Part 5 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)
  • remote witness facilities for applicants
  • the jurisdictional powers of the Family Violence Court Division under section 4I of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 (Vic), including the power to make parenting and property orders under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).
  • This recommendation supports the centrepiece of the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria’s (MCV) family violence response, the rollout of the Specialist Family Violence Courts (SFVC)External Link to all headquarter courts and is connected with the implementation of a number of related recommendations.

    MCV is continuing to foster a statewide response to family violence by:

    • improving victim survivors’ safety at court
    • fostering greater participation of victim survivors’ in the court process
    • improving victim survivors’ experience of the court system
    • reducing unnecessary repeat attendances at court
    • streamlining the hearing of family violence matters
    • improving access to specialist support services.
  • Twelve courts have been gazetted in the SFVC Division at Shepparton, Ballarat, Moorabbin, Heidelberg, Frankston, Melbourne, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Geelong, Latrobe Valley, Ringwood and Sunshine. This will expand to 14 courts by 2025, with the anticipated gazettal of Bendigo and Wyndham.

    The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria has undertaken a range of activities to ensure Recommendation 60 is met, including:

    • training of specialist magistrates, court staff, family violence applicant and respondent practitioners
    • expansion of the counselling order program
    • collaboration with Victoria Police and Victoria Legal AidExternal Link and other support services to create a shared understanding of specialist legal support
    • providing designated facilities for applicants and respondents to access specialist family violence service providers and legal representation, and
    • ensuring remote witness facilities are available for applicants at headquarter courts.

    Other courts, such as Mildura, have SFVC features such as separate waiting areas or specialist practitioners.

    The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria continues to implement initiatives to provide services beyond the headquarter courts, including through remote and online services including:

    • the Family Violence Intervention Order Online Form, giving greater choice and flexibility to people who have experienced violence 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, which supports ten courts to streamline non-legal advice and handle enquiries from affected family members, respondents, legal services and police1
    • the capability to hear matters online, facilitating greater participation from affected family members from a safe, remote location via an audio-visual link.
    • the expansion of supported remote hearing facilities to ten non-court locations across Victoria in 2022
    • the expansion of the Umalek Balit practitioner support model is under development, in line with funding allocated in the 2021/22 State Budget
    • the Pre-Court Engagement Program, supporting parties with early referrals to legal and other supports at some metropolitan and one regional court, to ensure matters are ready to proceed at their hearing date and ensuring parties are better prepared for their court experience.

    Footnotes

    1The Family Violence Contact Centre supports the following courts: Ballarat, Dandenong, Frankston, Geelong, Heidelberg, Melbourne, Moorabbin, Ringwood, Shepparton and Sunshine Magistrates’ Courts.

  • Implemented.

Reviewed 27 January 2023

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