MEDIA RELEASE: Early Intervention Extended for Pregnant Women and New Families

4 June 2019

The ACT Government has extended funding for innovative Health Justice Partnerships to continue supporting women at risk of domestic and family violence for another 12 months.

The Women’s Legal Centre has partnered with Gungahlin Child and Family Centre and Calvary Public Hospital to establish two pilot Health Justice Partnerships.

These Health Justice Partnerships provide tailored legal services to women in trusted medical and community health settings during the critical time around pregnancy and early parenthood. Lawyers are embedded in these services and work as part of the team in the Hospital and the Child and Family Centre.

As Women’s Legal Centre Executive Director, Elena Rosenman stated, “we know that women experiencing violence and other legal issues are more likely to disclose and seek assistance from a trusted health professional than a lawyer.”

In Australia, one in six women have experienced physical and or sexual violence by a current or previous partner and almost half of women who were pregnant during these relationships report domestic violence during their pregnancy.

The Centre’s Health Justice Partnerships bring lawyers together with trusted clinical and allied health staff to provide crucial wrap around support to women to keep them and their children safe and well.

In the first five months of the pilot partnerships, lawyers from the Women’s Legal Centre have provided services to over 40 women and 60 children and trained more than 120 clinical and allied health staff in identifying and responding to the legal issues experienced by women in the Canberra community.

The high number of women assisted through the Partnership has revealed a significant unmet need for women. As Michelle Thinius, Calvary Public Hospital spokeswoman explained, “We know the social conditions a woman is living in are the single most important determinants of her health and ultimately of her baby’s. The lawyer from Women’s Legal Centre is working with the team at the Hospital to address these conditions at a time when women are most vulnerable. This support has the potential to change the outcomes for these women and their babies.”

Elena Rosenman continued, “Today’s announcement confirms these pilots will continue for a further 12 months, while the ACT Government finds more permanent funding. The Centre has supported the Family Safety Hub’s approach of bringing the right people together to work out how we can do things better and earlier. These Partnerships have a proven record of doing this – we are reaching women we have not engaged with before at an early stage in their legal matter. We look forward to working with the Hub, the Attorney General and the Ministers for Family Safety, Health and Community Services to ensure these crucial collaborative and multi-disciplinary approaches to domestic and family violence are adequately funded in an ongoing way.”

Media contact: Elena Rosenman, Executive Director, Women’s Legal Centre, 0402 972 545

Guide to Getting a Family Violence Order in the ACT – updated resource published

Your Court, Your Safety: A guide to getting a Family Violence Order in the ACT explains the process of going to court to apply for a Family Violence Order in the ACT.

The Centre was very proud that the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Yvette Berry MLA  joined Her Honour Magistrate Campbell and a survivor advocate to launch this updated guide as part of the 16 Days of Activism in November 2018

Thank you to our colleagues at the Domestic Violence Crisis Service and the Legal Aid Domestic Violence and Personal Protection Unit for their assistance and support and to the ACT Office for Women for their support in this publication..

The Minister’s Media Release, including comments from the Centre’s Principal Solicitor, is in full here below.

Thanks to all who joined us for the launch.

  Yvette Berry MLA
Deputy Chief Minister
Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development
Minister for Housing and Suburban Development
Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
Minister for Sport and Recreation
Minister for Women

Member for Ginninderra

  26 November 2018

Your Court, Your Safety

Today I launched the Your Court, Your Safety: a Guide to Getting a Family Violence Order in the ACT. Your Court, Your Safety is a practical tool to assist people who are considering getting a Family Violence Order

Your Court, Your Safety provides an overview of the nature and dynamics of domestic and family violence. This guide is designed to help women recognise domestic and family violence and to know what supports are available to them.

A Family Violence Order is one of the main options women in the ACT have to respond to violence and protect their safety. Your Court, Your Safety provides a clear overview of the process of applying for a Family Violence Order and practical information about what to expect when attending court.

One of the things I hear often is the difficulty women and families have in navigating the legal system, particularly in the case of domestic and family violence where the parties involved are often stressed and not sure of what to expect.

First launched in 2012, Your Court, Your Safety has been updated to reflect recent changes to the law in the ACT. The definition of family and domestic violence has been amended to explicitly include all forms of violence—physical, sexual emotional, financial and financial violence. These amendments also improved protections for people applying for an order. A self-represented respondent can no longer cross-examine the applicant themselves in a final hearing.

The guide also provides referral information about a broad range of services in Canberra who can help people beyond legal assistance.

Women’s Legal Centre Principal Solicitor, Claudia Maclean explained, “This practical information about the process and what to expect when attending court can be key to women actually being able to make the application and protect their safety. For example, once you know what time, how long you will be at court, how many times you will have to appear, what information you will need you can do things like plan transport, child care, taking time off work.

“It’s also crucial that women know there is free legal assistance and specialised support over at the Court that can help you make the application. Legal Aid ACT run a Domestic Violence Unit that can help people go through the application process for a Family Violence Order and respond to an order. The Domestic Violence Crisis Service’s Court Advocacy Program can provide people applying for an order with advice on the process, support in meetings with solicitors and in the court as well advocacy in court and with other agencies. The more support women have going through the process, the better that experience and the outcome will be.

“Changes to the Family Violence Act 2016 were made to better reflect our client’s experiences of violence and shows them the system recognises and aims to respond. Domestic and family violence is characterised by the experience of coercion and control in a relationship, not just one form of violence. It’s important that we skill up our whole community to recognise unhealthy and dangerous signs in relationships.

“The changes to the Act protects applicants from direct cross-examination by the person who is alleged to have perpetrated the violence and are also a crucial local response to the pervasive problem of systems abuse, where violent partners use legal systems to continue the abusive, threatening and controlling behaviour.”

Statement ends


25 November 2016

Canberra Women’s Legal Centre Launches New Specialist Domestic Violence Program

The Women’s Legal Centre ACT today launched its new specialist Domestic Violence Program.

The program was launched by the Commonwealth Attorney-General, the Hon, George Brandis QC. The Centre was also joined by the Deputy Chief Minister of the ACT and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Yvette Berry to mark the occasion.

The specialist program provides intensive and ongoing legal advice and representation to women experiencing violence. The program is focussed on providing support to women post-crisis. The Centre’s specialist staff provide legal advice and representation to women primarily in relation to family law matters, including support to reach equitable property settlements and safe arrangements for children.

The Centre’s Executive Director, Elena Rosenman said, “In the last three months, the program has already provided assistance to 65 women in Canberra.” She continued, “We look forward to working alongside the many expert services in Canberra to provide our clients with effective, professional and supportive legal advice and representation and the associated support they need to ensure long-term and sustainable safety and financial independence following separation.”

The program was funded as a pilot service under the Commonwealth Government’s Women’s Safety Package. The Centre welcomed the Commonwealth Government’s recent announcement that this funding will be extended to 30 June 2019.

The launch was also addressed by Jo Wood, the newly appointed ACT Coordinator-General for Family Safety and Sarah Avery, the President of the Law Society of the ACT.

The launch was attended by many representatives of community services, legal assistance services, advocates, ACT and Commonwealth government representatives and practitioners from the legal profession in Canberra. The Centre was also pleased to be joined by a number of newly elected Members of the Legislative Assembly.

For assistance please phone the Centre on 02 6257 4377.

Media contact:
Elena Rosenman, Executive Director, 0408 133 115,