Eastern Community Legal Centre has strongly welcomed the comprehensive and historic findings of the Royal Commission into Family Violence that were tabled in parliament today and released by Premier Daniel Andrews and Commissioner Marcia Neave, AO.
Mr Michael Smith, CEO of Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) praised the depth and breadth of the report and its 227 recommendations.
“The Royal Commission has established a clear systems approach to tackling the scourge of family violence across the community, with a broad range of recommendations across prevention, response, support, justice and legal systems as well as perpetrator accountability.” he said
“It has clearly heard the voices of victim/survivors as well as professionals and agencies working in this field for many years, including the expertise of our Centre and our many colleagues and partners.”
“The success of a number of initiatives and pilot projects in our Eastern region is clear in the report and ECLC looks forward to working with the government and partners to implement the recommendations without delay.”
ECLC welcomes the Premier’s comments that,
“There can be no more excuses. Our work begins today to overhaul our broken family violence system from the bottom up.”¹
as well as the State Government’s clear commitment to implement all recommendations. While it will take some time to analyse the report’s details, the Royal Commission clearly identified that,
“All parts of the system—support services, police, courts – are overwhelmed by the number of family violence incidents now reported. Services are not currently equipped to meet this high level of demand, which undermines the safety of those experiencing family violence and their potential for recovery.”²
This is certainly the case in Melbourne’s East, with the Royal Commission noting a doubling of family violence incidents in last five years (to 2013-14).
“ECLC, like many agencies, is struggling to cope with the increased demand for assistance from family violence victims,” said Belinda Lo, Principal Lawyer. “We remain highly concerned for women and children who may not receive the help they need so remain in immediate danger – this needs an urgent, whole of community response.”
ECLC provided three detailed submissions to the Royal Commission with a focus on specific projects and expertise. In this context, ECLC particularly welcomes:
- That all Magistrates’ Courts headquarter courts have the function of Family Violence Division Courts, with specialist magistrates, registrars, staff and facilities (Rec 60).
- This acknowledges the critical Ringwood Family Violence Integration Project, an ECLC led partnership project, including its key outcomes with RC recommendations for:
- a daily co-ordination meeting before hearings in the family violence list (Rec. 64)
- capital works for “safe waiting areas” and other appropriate facilities (Rec. 70)
- production of “multi-media information about the family violence intervention order process that can not only be viewed online but can be shown in court waiting areas… (Rec. 73) See ECLC’s Steps 2 Safety video resources.
- a series of recommendations for improving the court and justice system for people experiencing family violence (Recs 60-78).
- The importance of specialist (family violence and legal) services working closely with universal health and education services to prevent, identify and respond to family violence.
- The emphasis on Family Violence and Diversity, particularly the needs of older people (in elder abuse as a form of family violence), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people in rural and regional communities, people from CaLD communities, LGBTI people, people with disabilities and more.
- The extensive education, awareness-raising and co-ordination work of ECLC’s elder abuse work, as well as the Eastern Elder Abuse Network was widely cited and commended, including:
- that “ageism—stereotyping or discriminating against a person because of their age—can be an important factor in family violence against older people” (Vol V p 71)
- the importance of professional development and training for police and a range of health professionals in family violence and older people
- ECLC’s training videos on Elder Abuse
- The EEAN electronic case conferencing facility (Vol V. p78)
- Improved Residential Tenancies Act legislation and VCAT procedures for when family violence impacts on tenancies, protecting the victim from further financial impact (Rec 116).