Family Violence

Eastern Community Legal Centre has a longstanding commitment to addressing family violence and helping those that it affects through innovative and coordinated responses.

ECLC also seeks to stop family violence before it occurs by working in partnership to develop and support community prevention and education.

If you require support or advice in relation to family violence, please contact ECLC.

Legal advice and support

ECLC provides free and confidential legal advice and assistance to people experiencing or at risk of family violence across the Eastern Metropolitan Region (EMR).

ECLC’s Community Lawyers provide help for family violence matters and a range of related legal problems, including:

  • Intervention Orders
  • Family Law
  • Victims of Crime
  • Fines and Infringements

Legal advice is provided at ECLC’s offices and at outreach locations across Melbourne’s east. More detailed assistance may be offered to people who are experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage.

ECLC also provides referrals to other specialist legal and community agencies, secondary consultations for service workers and arranges interpreter services as needed.

Intervention Order Support Service

ECLC’s specialist family violence Community Lawyers provide assistance at the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court four days a week, supported by trained volunteer paralegals, as part of the Intervention Order Support Service (IOSS).

The Community Lawyer:

  • Provides legal advice and information to Applicants and Respondents in Family Violence Intervention Order matters
  • Liaises and advocates for clients to achieve a negotiated, positive resolution to their matter or support them to have the matter listed for a contested hearing
  • Represents clients who require extra support in the Family Violence Intervention Order List
  • Arranges referrals to relevant services

ECLC works closely with all other agencies and partners involved in the IOSS, including Victoria Legal Aid, Court staff, Victoria Police, EDVOS, EACH Victims Assistance Program, Court Network, Boorndawan Willam Aboriginal Healing Service and others.

As part of the IOSS partnership, ECLC produced Steps2Safety – an informative video and collection of multilingual resources for people engaging with the Family Violence Intervention Order process.

From 2011-15, ECLC led the Family Violence Integration Project (FVIP), which made significant improvements to the coordination and integration of legal and support services for family violence victims/survivors attending Ringwood Magistrates’ Court.

The Royal Commission into Family Violence endorsed a number of key outcomes of the FVIP as recommendations.

Key Programs


Mabels provides the opportunity for early intervention to family violence by integrating legal help and family violence support services into universal health settings.

ECLC launched the first Mabels clinics at selected sites in Melbourne’s EMR in 2015. A Family Violence Community Lawyer and Specialist Family Violence Advocate work on-site with the health service to provide women with legal advice, safety planning information and referrals in the same appointment.

The success of the program can be measured not only by the increased number of women gaining early access to legal and family violence services but also in the enhanced capacity of the partner services to identify and respond to family violence. A successful independent evaluation indicated that the Mabels health justice partnership model has the potential to be replicated across multiple regions, utilising services and connections already in existence, to improve the safety and wellbeing of women and their children.

WELS: Women Engaging and Living Safely

Eastern Health and Eastern Community Legal Centre have collaborated to develop WELS, a two-year pilot program designed to respond to the needs of women

attending Eastern Health for maternity services.

WELS will play a key role relating to family violence and child safety. It will provide opportunities for women who are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing family violence to seek free, confidential legal advice. By providing an integrated specialised family violence legal response at a critical time in a woman’s experience, WELS aims to offer an early intervention to limit or prevent further harm to both new

mothers and their children.

Whilst they are distinct, WELS and Mabels work closely together with similar principles and objectives as well as strong cross-referral processes.


The SAGE program seeks to overcome barriers that can make it more difficult for some women experiencing family violence to access help, by targeting services to priority groups, including:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women
  • women from migrant, refugee or culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • women with a disability
  • women experiencing mental health issues
  • women in rural or remote locations

SAGE utilises an integrated model which sees a Family Violence Community Lawyer, Family Violence Advocate and Financial Counsellor work together to provide:

  • intensive legal, family violence support and financial counselling
  • co-case management and strong referral pathways
  • ‘wraparound’ support through collaboration with other services
  • a trauma-informed and strengths-based approach to supporting women to engage with legal processes

Strong partnerships with other specialist services ensure SAGE can provide family violence assistance that is accessible, culturally safe and responsive to the diverse needs of women.

Financial Counselling

In addition to the trauma of family violence, a number of ECLC’s clients endure the stress of debt and bad credit reports, often as the result of a financially abusive partner.

As well as employing and integrating Financial Counsellors in the Family Violence and Elder Abuse Programs, through key partnerships, ECLC hosts family violence financial counsellors on-site as part of an embedded service collaboration.

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a form of family violence and is a growing issue for Australia. It can take many forms including physical, sexual, financial, psychological, social and/or neglect.

Through its Elder Abuse program, ECLC:

  • Advocates for the rights of older people
  • Provides secondary consultation to other agencies
  • Convenes the Eastern Elder Abuse Network of professionals working with older people
  • Contributes to strategic advocacy and law reform.

Community Development and Legal Education

ECLC engages in community development activities across the EMR, including providing community legal education workshops, professional development and legal needs research.

These activities are tailored to meet the needs of people experiencing or at risk of family violence and the agencies that provide a service to them.

ECLC also addresses family violence across the prevention, early intervention and response continuum as an active member of the Regional Family Violence Partnership and a wide range of other projects.

Law Reform

ECLC advocates on family violence issues by calling for significant and urgent law reform. ECLC has contributed to the numerous government inquiries into
family violence, including:

  • Parliamentary Inquiry into Domestic Violence in Australia (2014)
  • Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence (2015)
  • New South Wales Inquiry into Elder Abuse (2015)
  • Australian Law Reform Commission, Elder Abuse Inquiry (2016)
  • Parliamentary Inquiry into ‘a better family law system to support and protect those affected by family violence’ (2017)

To read ECLC’s submissions, please visit the Law Reform & Policy page.

For more information about ECLC’s family violence projects and services, please contact us or download the brochure.

Page updated January 23, 2020
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