Specialist DFV Court Model
Fourth Action Plan actions
- Improve support and service system responses
- 17 Collaborate across services, sectors and workforces to ensure responses to women affected by domestic, family and sexual violence are coordinated, meet women’s needs, avoid women having to retell their story and promote their recovery.
What are we doing?
Building on the success of the Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Courts in Queensland, there is an ongoing commitment to continue to evolve the Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Court model in response to evidence and evaluation findings.
Key features of the specialist DFV court model include:
- recognising that the court process is a touchpoint for service delivery, and seeking to enhance victim safety while ensuring perpetrator accountability;
- specialist magistrates and prosecutors provide a high degree of knowledge and experience of the complex legal framework underpinning domestic and family violence and how to apply those laws to people in need of help;
- specialist court registries with responsive court registry staff;
- wrap around specialist support services including duty lawyers who are available to provide advice and representation in court for aggrieved and respondent parties;
- court support workers;
- providing perpetrators with strong encouragement to deter them from using violence, as well as imposing appropriate sanctions; and
- multi-disciplinary and collaborative approaches.
What have we achieved so far?
The Specialist DFV Court at Southport became Queensland’s first permanent Specialist Domestic and Family Violence court in 2017, after a trial period of almost two years, which commenced 1 September 2015.
We have invested $69.5 million over four years and annual ongoing funding from 2017-18 for the establishment of Southport as a permanent DFV court and rollout of the specialist DFV court response to four other locations – Beenleigh, Townsville, Mount Isa and Palm Island.
We have invested a further $8.1 million over four years from 2018-19 to expand Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Courts across Queensland. Specialist DFV courts currently operate at Southport, Beenleigh, Townsville, Mount Isa, and Palm Island. The rollout of the specialist DFV courts delivers on the Queensland Government’s commitment to a specialist court approach in dealing with domestic and family violence matters, as recommended by the Not Now, Not Ever report of the Special Taskforce on domestic and family violence.
As part of the continuation of Queensland’s specialist DFV courts, an evaluation of the Southport Specialist DFV Court will identify areas for improvement in court responses to DFV, assess outcomes for victims, their families and for perpetrators and measure the social and economic impacts connected with the court is nearing completion. The Southport evaluation will be delivered in 2021.
Major court refurbishments have been completed at Beenleigh and Townsville Courthouses to support the specialist DFV courts at a cost of $20 million. The upgrades provide aggrieved parties with secure and comfortable waiting areas, secure access to the court rooms, new DFV courtrooms, a specialist DFV court registry and sufficient sound proofed meeting rooms for parties to meet with duty lawyers and support services prior to court.
We have provided support for people involved in domestic and family violence court proceedings, including by introducing a new online form to help guide people through the process of applying for a Domestic Violence Order and releasing a series of resources including videos on the court process for domestic and family violence (including in Auslan and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages).
The Community Justice Group (CJG) Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) Enhancement Program is building the capacity of CJGs in discrete communities to respond to DFV.
Fourteen CJGs are delivering a local domestic and family violence response through the design and implementation of local place-based responses with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Cherbourg, Coen, Doomadgee, Hope Vale, Kowanyama, Mornington Island, Mossman, Napranum, Northern Peninsula Area, Palm Island, Pormpuraaw, Thursday Island, Woorabinda and Wujal Wujal. Co-design has been finalised in Lockhart River, Yarrabah and Mapoon with establishment and implementation activity underway.
The local responses being delivered include the employment of dedicated DFV support workers to provide education about court process and facilitate referral pathways, delivery of on-country and cultural healing programs and the employment of female counsellors to provide support to women in the community.
Introduction of a new free service called Counselling Notes Protect. The service is delivered by Legal Aid Queensland and the Women’s Legal Service. This service provides advice, assistance and representation to sexual assault victims and counsellors who seek to prevent disclosure of counselling communications in court under the new sexual assault counselling privilege introduced in Queensland.
What is next?
Upcoming milestones include:
- Deliver the final evaluation of the Southport Specialist DFV Court; and
- Consider recommendations from the evaluation of the Southport Specialist DFV Court to further develop the DFV Court model and inform justice responses to DFV.
What difference will we make?
The intended outcomes of this initiative include:
- Enhanced victim safety; and
- Increased satisfaction of victims that they feel safe at court;
- Ensuring perpetrator accountability; and
- Giving perpetrators strong encouragement to stop using violence;
- Increased satisfaction of victims with the court process.