24 Feb, 2024
2 mins read

Specialist family violence court and legal aid needed in north-east Victoria, advocates say

As a victim-survivor of family violence, Alexandra (name changed to protect privacy) had to go to court many times.

“[It was] an exceptionally challenging and debilitating period in my life, and it’s been years,” she said.

With no specialist family violence court in her town of Wangaratta, or in north east Victoria at all, she had to attend the local Magistrates Court, which she says was not properly equipped.

“[I had to] be in the court room with the perpetrator, had to walk right beside them, stand by them. I certainly felt intimidated,” she said.

Alexandra was one of many people and local organizations to take part in a roundtable at Wangaratta this week, organized by Member for Northern Victoria Tania Maxwell.

The aim was to define the need for a specialist family violence court (SFVC) and Legal Aid Office in north east Victoria.

Alison Maher from the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service said it was something they had needed for a long time.

“We’re the only free community legal service in our region and we’re turning away more people than we can currently assist,” Ms Maher said.

a sign on a wall saying "court"
Many victim-survivors describe the court process as confusing and intimidating.(ABC: Angel Parsons)

She was frustrated the region did not have a SFVC, while others did.

“What that means is our people, our residents, are getting a far lesser service than what others are getting across the state,” she said.

“It’s a huge postcode injustice and something that needs to change.”

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