Specialist Family Violence Courts and Contact Centre
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.
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.
Central to the SFVCs’ success is an operating model to improve courts’ response to family violence, the key features of which include a separate entry and safe waiting space for victims, changes to listing and operating procedures, and a victim-centred approach, which responds to matters using restorative and therapeutic approaches. Additionally, a culturally appropriate response for Koori families living with family violence is being integrated into the SFVC model, recognising that family violence has devastating Koori community impact.
Tranche one implementation of five SFVCs includes Shepparton, Heidelberg, Frankston, Ballarat and Moorabbin; the first of which was launched in Shepparton in October 2019.
All SFVCs will have appropriately trained staff whose work will support greater integration across jurisdictions and within the community.
The Family Violence Contact Centre (FVCC)
The FVCC responds to family violence-related phone and email enquiries on behalf of seven Magistrates’ Courts. The FVCC assists victim survivors to initiate proceedings and provides immediate linkages 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 tests the efficacy of a centralised service to relieve demand pressure on courts, test progressive technology solutions, and trial innovative processes and ways of working.
- The Victorian Government provided $130.3 million between 2017/18 and 2020/21 to fund the Specialist Family Violence Integrated Court Response – which is funding the SFVCs and FVCC pilot, among other reform initiatives.
What have we achieved so far?
Capital works have reached practical completion at Shepparton and the court was opened on 9 October 2019. Courts in four other locations are in progress, scheduled to be operational within the next 12 months.
Recruitment and training of specialist staff and Magistrates is well advanced. Standard operating guidelines and employee training have been developed, a comprehensive suite of family violence-related training opportunities is available in partnership with the Judicial College of Victoria, and a culturally appropriate response for Koori families living with family violence is being integrated into the operating model.
The FVCC currently supports Magistrates’ Courts at:
- Frankston (emails only)
Since commencement, the FVCC has responded to over 45,000 enquiries. It responds to approximately 6,000 enquiries per month and is growing rapidly. Most callers are affected family members experiencing family violence, followed by Police and then respondents to Family Violence Intervention Orders.
What is next?
The first of the Tranche One SFVCs is scheduled to commence operations at the Shepparton Magistrates’ Court, followed by Ballarat (2019), with the Moorabbin, Heidelberg and Frankston SFVCs to commence operations in 2020.
The FVCC will continue to operate and is currently piloting a first-in-country technology solution that offers remote working capabilities with connectivity to Courtlink for secure data retrieval and collection.
Funding dependant, the FVCC could expand to more Victorian courts and subject areas.
What difference will we make?
Some key differences the SFVC will make include:
- Increased places on Men’s Behaviour Change Programs to hold perpetrators accountable;
- Infrastructure upgrades, including separate court room entrances, safe waiting areas and interview rooms, remote witness facilities, and child friendly spaces;
- Stronger emphasis on consistency and standardised practices;
- 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, including capped family violence lists that bundle related family violence matters together where possible;
- Establishment 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.