In this section:

Specialist Family Violence Courts and Family Violence Contact Centre

Responsible government

  • Victoria

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?

Specialist Family Violence Courts (SFVCs)

To progress Recommendation 60 of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence (RCFV), the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 (Vic) was amended in 2018 to include the Specialist Family Violence Court Division.

The first Specialist Family Violence Court (SFVC) was launched at Shepparton in October 2019. Since then, SFVCs at Ballarat, Moorabbin, Heidelberg and Frankston have commenced operations.

Implementation planning is currently underway for the Magistrates’ Courts at Melbourne, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Geelong, Latrobe Valley, Ringwood and Sunshine to become SFVCs.
In addition, Bendigo is expected to commence in early 2023 and Wyndham in 2025.

Central to the SFVCs’ success is an operating model to improve the Court’s response to family violence. The key features of the operating model include:

  • targeted infrastructure upgrades to provide a purpose-built environment that maximises safety and choice. This can include a separate entrance/exit for victim survivors, safe waiting areas and interview rooms, remote witness facilities and child friendly spaces;
  • changes to listing and operating procedures that integrate risk assessment and management and prioritise the safety of families;
  • a specialised family violence team, which includes specially trained Magistrates, court registrars and family violence practitioners;
  • court ordered men’s behaviour change programs to hold perpetrators accountable;
  • enhanced learning and development program for staff which includes a focus on pre-court engagement, referrals to appropriate services and community engagement; and
  • integrated team of court staff, agencies and court based services that deliver a coordinated service response supported by strong operational governance and interagency engagement

Umalek Balit, which means give strength in Woiwurrung, is the Court’s dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family violence support program. Umalek Balit is designed to address the specific barriers faced by Aboriginal Victorians in participating in Victoria’s family violence justice system and offers culturally safe and appropriate, non-legal expertise regarding family violence matters. The service includes women’s and men’s practitioners who work with Aboriginal women and men to guide them through the court experience. Umalek Balit is available at Melbourne, Mildura, Shepparton, Ballarat and Heidelberg Magistrates’ Court. The program is expanding to Latrobe Valley in 2021.

In adopting a victim-centred approach to matters involving family violence, the SFVC operating model represents a significant shift in the way Courts and the justice system respond to family violence. The model is informed by the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria’s considerable knowledge and experience of family violence and the lived experience of court users.

The Family Violence Contact Centre (FVCC)

The FVCC responds to family violence-related phone and email enquiries on behalf of ten Magistrates’ Courts. The FVCC assists victim survivors to initiate proceedings and provides immediate referrals to dedicated support services.

The FVCC was established as a pilot, in part-response to Recommendation 63 of the RCFV, which proposed establishing an ‘e-registry’ as a central online file-management portal and an offsite contact centre for managing registry-related queries. The FVCC provides a centralised service to relieve demand pressure on courts, supported by technology solutions, and new processes and ways of working.

The FVCC is now embedded in family violence operations across the courts it services.

What have we achieved so far?


Specialist Family Violence Courts (SFVC) have commenced at the Shepparton, Ballarat, Moorabbin, Heidelberg and Frankston Magistrates’ Courts to improve victim survivor access to justice and help hold perpetrators to account.

Recruitment and training of specialist staff and Magistrates is well advanced. Standard operating guidelines and employee training have been developed and implemented, with a comprehensive suite of family violence-related training opportunities available in partnership with the Judicial College of Victoria. A culturally appropriate response for Koori families living with family violence has been developed and integrated into the operating model.


The FVCC currently supports Magistrates’ Courts at:

  • Dandenong
  • Ringwood
  • Geelong
  • Heidelberg
  • Melbourne
  • Moorabbin
  • Shepparton
  • Sunshine
  • Frankston
  • Ballarat

Since commencement, the FVCC has responded to over 380,000 enquiries. In 2020-21 alone, the FVCC responded to over 200,000 enquiries. Initially, the FVCC was taking approximately 7,500 enquiries per month.

What is next?


Implementation planning is currently underway for the Magistrates’ Courts at Melbourne, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Geelong, Latrobe Valley, Ringwood and Sunshine to become SFVCs.

Capital works at two further sites – Bendigo and Wyndham – have been funded by the Victorian Government.


The FVCC will continue to operate and support ten Magistrates’ Courts by responding to family violence related phone calls and email enquiries.

What difference will we make?

Some key differences that SFVCs will make include:

  • Targeted infrastructure upgrades, including separate court room entrances/exits, safe waiting areas and interview rooms, remote witness facilities, culturally safe spaces and child friendly spaces;
  • Additional resourcing for the court-based specialist family violence team, including Magistrates, registry staff and family violence practitioners;
  • Enhanced support for specialist roles through an ongoing learning and development program, a stronger focus on team wellbeing, and an emphasis on the leadership and management capability of senior positions;
  • Consistent SFVC listings policy and practices across the Division, supported by increased centralised services;
  • Enhancement of central and local SFVC inter-agency governance arrangements to oversee operations, drive continuous improvement, strengthen service integration, and ensure greater consistency and cohesion across the Division; and
  • Stronger emphasis on monitoring and continuous improvement, with more support for data collection, reporting and evaluation.

Last updated