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