Family Courts to Fast-Track Urgent Applications

Family Courts to Fast-Track Urgent Applications

Wednesday 29 April 2020

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From today, Victorians who are experiencing increased family violence risk as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will have their applications prioritised and fast-tracked through the Family Courts.

Once lodged, urgent applications will be triaged by a dedicated registrar and heard by a judge in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court within 72 hours.

Urgent applications concerning supervised contact with children arrangements, or children being unable to travel between carers due to current border restrictions, will also be fast-tracked.

The Courts have taken this action after recording a surge in urgent applications over March and April. The Family Court of Australia saw a 39% increase in urgent applications, while the Federal Circuit Court recorded a 23% increase.

Some women’s legal services have also reported an increase in people seeking help since the lockdowns have been enforced.

Will Alstergren, Chief Justice of the Family Court and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court, said the new system is designed to ensure cases requiring urgent attention during this volatile period are identified and dealt with more quickly.

“It is important that these urgent COVID-19 applications are closely managed on a national basis so that they can be heard as swiftly as possible given the unprecedented circumstances we are facing,” he said in a statement. 

In order to simplify the process, parties will be able to lodge their paperwork electronically and attend their hearing using teleconferencing software.

These new measures will be in place for at least three months.

Referring clients to legal support 

If you are supporting someone who is experiencing violence and wishes to access legal advice or apply for an intervention order, let them know that both legal services and courts are still operating during the pandemic.

The Women’s Legal Service provides free confidential legal information, advice, representation and referral to women, and will continue to provide all of its legal services during the COVID-19 pandemic, although some will be delivered in a modified format.

Victoria Legal Aid and community legal centres are still offering legal advice over the phone and their duty lawyer services are still operating at Magistrates’ Courts across Victoria.

Djirra’s Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service is also still providing phone support to victim survivors plus representation in court matters.

For information and advice on how to effectively refer a client to legal support and other support services, see this MARAM resource on the Victorian Government’s website.

To see the Family Court of Australia’s full media release, click here.

If you are experiencing violence, require any support, or know someone who does, contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Safe Steps (1800 015 188). 

Page last updated Wednesday, April 29 2020


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DVRCV Launches Warning Signs Tip Sheet

DVRCV Launches Warning Signs Tip Sheet

Monday 27 April 2020

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Frontline essential workers are carrying our society in many ways at the moment. Being among the few who still have regular face-to-face contact with members of the general public, they also have the opportunity to provide critical support those who may not be safe at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recognising this untapped potential, the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) has developed a tip sheet resource outlining the warning signs or indicators of family violence all essential workers can look out for.

The tip sheet also provides practical advice on what to do if you suspect someone is experiencing abuse, including where to refer victim survivors for specialist help and support.

As captured in the tip sheet, there are many signs of family violence we can all look out for, some of which are specific to the COVID-19 context.

According to DVRCV CEO, Emily Maguire, these signs may include “fear when a partner is mentioned or anxiousness to please or appease a partner. There may also be physical signs – like bruises, cuts or other injuries, with unlikely-sounding explanations or none at all.”

The tip sheet resource has been released at a very pressing and volatile time, with experts anticipating the COVID-19 public health crisis and associated social-distancing and lockdown measures will result in increased and escalated domestic abuse.

“Family violence can increase by up to 100 per cent during times of major crisis,” Ms Maguire explained.

“Research shows this happens as a result of stereotypical gender roles resurfacing in the home, out of sight, limiting women’s independence and autonomy, and because violence or abuse may be ‘excused’ with statements like ‘he’s just stressed.’”

On top of that, family violence risk can be further compounded by the additional, unique strains the pandemic is placing on relationships and family dynamics.

“Financial, employment and housing insecurity coupled with sustained periods of isolation from other people may exacerbate violence. Often, people living with family violence will blame themselves for what’s happening to them and may be reluctant to tell anyone,” Ms. Maguire added.

Now more than ever, it is crucial that those working in front-line essential services, who still have contact with members of the community, are equipped with the knowledge to recognise family violence and respond appropriately.

To ensure it reaches as many people working in essential services as possible, DVRCV are urging all professionals to share this resource with the essential workers in their own networks – whether that be colleagues, family members, or social media contacts.

The tip sheet can be accessed and downloaded via the Lookout website at

DVRCV is working hard to develop more resources to support professionals responding to family violence during this time. Check  The Lookout’s COVID-19 and Resource Hub for new additions.

To download the tip sheet, click here.

Page last updated Monday, April 27 2020


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Self-care and social change: a personal reflection

Self-care and social change: a personal reflection

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During the current pandemic, self (and social) care are more important than ever. Whilst its importance cannot be underestimated, the concept of self-care has not been an easy one for feminism as a movement to grapple with. As someone who has dedicated her life to creating systemic change for women and children, Fiona McCormack reflects on her own personal and professional struggles with self-care.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Audre Lorde’s famous quote resonates well with me. It means different things to people, depending on your level of privilege. In our sector, it is something we are constantly confronting.

On a pragmatic level, part of the challenge of self-care for people working in small non-government organisations is that they are funded at rates not aligned with self-care. The administrative costs of running an organisation are often not included in funding. Money needs to go to service delivery but the reality is, in order to support staff to deliver those objectives, you need a certain amount of administrative capacity. Without that, keeping a work-life balance becomes an enormous challenge.

Because our sector is highly gendered there’s been an expectation that, as women and carers, we can work until we completely deplete ourselves. That doesn’t wash with me. We’ve got to care for ourselves.

How have you held the space and care for yourself whilst advocating to end family violence?

Personally, self-care has been a real challenge. Early in my career I experienced a lot of stress public speaking, doing media and having challenging conversations with politicians and public servants. My anxiety and stress were related to being negatively perceived by others, about making a fool of myself. What helped me manage those stress levels was to think:

“This isn’t about me. I have a responsibility to be a voice for women and children who don’t have a voice. What would they want me to say on their behalf? What can’t they say for themselves?”

This would take me out of myself and give me hope and the courage to say things I’d never be able to say on my own behalf.

How does leadership and organisational culture and values impact on self-care?

“We have a responsibility to ensure safe and respectful workplaces where people are supported, where it’s safe to fail, where it’s safe to learn and where we don’t have to be perfect.”

What’s really critical is that we focus on the responsibility we have to those who experience violence at much higher rates because of the barriers that discriminate beyond gender. We can’t do that work externally with credibility if we’re not walking the talk internally in how we operate and treat one another.

I am really proud of the values we carried at Domestic Violence Victoria – values that have been contributed to by all the women worked there. It’s wonderful to have worked in an organisation where you’re able to live and embody the values you hold dear.

What self-care words of advice can you share?

Make a real commitment to being disciplined about your work habits is crucial. It’s not easy!

Work collaboratively and support one another. That’s been one of my biggest learnings. The reality is, no one person can achieve anything.

“We need one another and we need all of our collective skills and knowledge to effect change.”

Now more than ever.

This article features in the December 2019 edition of The Advocate.


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Extra Government Funding to Support Survivors during COVID-19

Extra Government Funding to Support Survivors during COVID-19

Thursday, 16 April 2020

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The Victorian Government has announced a $40.2 million funding package to provide crisis accommodation and support to those experiencing or at risk of family violence during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Recognising that victim survivors may not be able to safely self-isolate or recover from coronavirus in their homes, nearly half of that package will go towards providing women and children escaping violence with access to short-term crisis accommodation.

The remaining funds will be used to build the capacity of specialist family violence and sexual assault services, including aboriginal community-controlled organisations, to meet the anticipated spike in demand for support.

Although official sources have not yet recorded a spike in Victoria, reports from overseas suggest we will see a surge in family violence incidents as a result of this public health crisis and associated lockdown measures.

Similarly, research into disasters locally and overseas shows there is a greater incidence of family violence in times of crisis, such as a pandemic.

“This funding is an important recognition of the additional family violence risks that emerge during a public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, that will result in increased requests for support from specialist family violence services,” said CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria Alison Macdonald.

As part of this funding package, specialist support services will also be supplied with new technology and protective equipment to help them adapt to working in the COVID-19 context and deliver support to victim survivors in new ways.

“Specialist family violence services will be able to respond to more people, more quickly, and with more flexibility as a result of the funding. That is exactly what is needed to respond to family violence during these pandemic conditions,” added Ms. Macdonald.

The funding announcement sends out a powerful message to victim survivors across Victoria.

In the words of the Gabrielle Williams MP, “we want the message to be loud and clear.”

“The service system is still operating, services are still available to those who need them and if you need help it is there for you.”

You can find Gabrielle Williams MP’s full media release here.

If you are experiencing violence and need to access confidential crisis support, information or accommodation please call the safe steps 24/7 family violence response line on 1800 015 188 or email In an emergency call 000. 

Page last updated Thursday, April 16 2020


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WESNET Safe Phones Funding Extended

WESNET Safe Phones Funding Extended

Monday, 6 April 2020

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The Federal Minister for Family and Social Services has announced that WESNET will receive $560,000 in funding to continue delivering its Safe Phones program until March 2021.

The program provides free, safe mobile phone devices to women impacted by family violence, sexual violence and other forms of violence against women. This help clients without access to a phone that’s safe to use to remain connected with others, document their abuse and communicate with the services supporting them.

WESNET also provides training to professionals on how to safely provide phones to victim survivors and support them to navigate various forms of technology-facilitated abuse.

Communication During Coronavirus Pandemic

The continuation of the Safe Phones program is arguably more crucial now than ever given the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which will result in victim survivors relying more heavily on technology to access support.

This is especially so given many organisations are shifting their approaches to service delivery due to COVID-19, providing key services online and over the phone.

According to National Director of WESNET, Karen Bentley, requests for Safe Phones have almost doubled in recent weeks.

“We are pleased to see that the Government has recognised that the Safe Phones program is crucial to assisting survivors in Australia’s pandemic response,” said Ms Bentley in light of the Government funding announcement.

Since its establishment in 2015, the program has provided over 21,400 phones to women with an average of around 600 per month.

“It’s a relief to be able to keep the program going,” said Julie Oberin, National Chair of WESNET. “But we will need to find ongoing funding for the program beyond this period, as the program is also crucial in non-pandemic times as well.” 

WESNET is still operating during the current public health crisis. If you have a client who you wish to refer to the Safe Phones program, or if you are personally experiencing technology-facilitated abuse and require support, call 1800 WESNET on 1800 937 638. 

For information and resources on how professionals and victim survivors can increase their technology privacy, security and safety visit

Page last updated Monday, April 6 2020


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