An essential domestic violence support service located at the Sydney Family Court is due to be lost through failure to secure ongoing government funding, despite only costing $120,000 a year.
“They should have this in every court” concluded an evaluation of the Women’s Family Law Court Support Service (WFLCSS) conducted by Dr Lesley Laing of the University of Sydney and launched by Professor Rosalind Croucher of the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2011.
The service was originally established by the women’s refuge movement and provides a safe room in the court and a counselling and referral service for many women. It is distinct from Legal Aid support services (such as the FASS) in being operated exclusively for and by women and is guided by a feminist framework.
“Our view, which is shared by the NSW Attorney General, is that this is an essential service for women who attend court following domestic and family violence,” says Anna Kerr, Principal Solicitor of the Feminist Legal Clinic Inc.
“Sadly, the government is currently refusing to commit to funding the service, let alone facilitate its expansion to other courts. This is despite the current community concern about the prevalence of domestic violence in the context of family law proceedings.”
Sruti Sinha, Coordinator of WFLCSS states: “We have strong support from the Judges and Family Court staff, legal practitioners and many testimonials from the women we assist. More women than ever are accessing the service. But without funding we cannot continue to offer our support.”
In their Concluding Observations on the Eighth Periodic Report of Australia in July 2018 the United Nations international women’s treaty body, CEDAW, specifically recommended to the Australian Government that adequate resources be allocated to ensure the availability of women-only and women-led support services for victims of gender-based violence.
Kerr observes: “This is a great opportunity for the government to demonstrate its stated commitment to address domestic violence before the election. We look forward to hearing that this small service will be given the resources to continue their important work supporting women.”
Media Contact: Anna Kerr M: 0402 467 476 E: [email protected]legal.org
Feminist Legal Clinic Incorporated is a new community legal service that works to advance the human rights of women and girls.
Released Friday 22 February 2019.