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Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program

Responsible government

  • New South Wales

Fourth Action Plan actions

  • Improve support and service system responses
    • 16 Enable workforces to provide trauma-informed support with a focus on safety and recovery to victims and survivors of domestic, family and sexual violence.

What are we doing?

Legal Aid NSW’s Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program (WDVCAP) administers NSW Government funding for 27 Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCASs) across NSW. WDVCASs provide information, advocacy, safety planning and referrals for victim-survivors of domestic and family violence, as well as support for victim-survivors through the court process at all local courts across the state. WDVCASs also provide secretariat support and victim-survivor liaison for Safety Action Meetings, as part of the Safer Pathway program.

Key components of the program include:

  • Women are referred to a WDVCAS by the NSW Police Force and other government and non-government services following a domestic and family violence incident. Referrals from Police are transferred through an online Central Referral Point, a key element of the NSW Government’s Safer Pathway program.
  • WDVCAS staff provide services and supports to women and their children. This can include making referrals to family support and counselling services, accommodation and health services, case management, legal advice on Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders and other legal issues such as family law, debt, immigration, victims’ compensation and tenancy.
  • Mentoring and training for WDVCAS staff is provided through the WDVCAP Unit. This ensures that the services provided to women are professional, trauma-informed and provided in a way that is culturally safe. Mentoring and training also aims to achieve consistent, high quality service delivery across NSW, including through Safer Pathway processes and procedures.

What have we achieved so far?

An independent evaluation of the WDVCAP in 2018 found that the ‘service delivery model has achieved its aims and objectives by successfully engaging victims from the point of domestic violence incident and Police referral, through to court, and post-court if case management services are offered.’

In 2020/21 WDVCAS assisted 55,341 women experiencing domestic and family violence across NSW. These women were provided with 330,254 services, including referrals to key supports (e.g. housing, counselling, and legal advice), safety planning and help through the court process.

From 1 July 2020 onwards, each WDVCAS employs a full-time equivalent Aboriginal Focus Worker position. These positions: provide specialist support to Aboriginal women experiencing domestic and family violence; undertake community engagement with Aboriginal communities to build trust in WDVCASs and encourage Aboriginal women to access support; and provide guidance to WDVCASs to ensure that service delivery is culturally safe and effective for Aboriginal women.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, WDVCASs in hard lockdown areas were no longer attending courts to provide services to women. Services are instead being delivered by telephone. In other lockdown areas, WDVCASs were sending a reduced number of staff to court and assisting women on the telephone. WDVCAS staff will return to court as usual once COVID-19 restrictions allow.

What is next?

Legal Aid NSW will:

  • Continue to work in partnership with the NSW Police Force and other stakeholders to redesign the Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool (DVSAT), a key component of Safer Pathway
  • Continue to review and update training for WDVCAS workers to ensure it is in line with legislation, contemporary research and client needs.

What difference will we make?

WDVCAS services are helping to improve the safety and wellbeing of tens of thousands of women and children across NSW.

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