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

EOI for Board Director and Finance Committee Members

About us

The Women’s Legal Centre a leading legal assistance service in the ACT. We are a specialist community legal centre providing free legal advice and representation and wrap-around support to women who would otherwise have to engage in their legal matters alone.

Our work is informed by feminist principles. This means we remain centered on the needs of our clients and provide individualised support while also advocating for systemic changes to better address the needs of women as a group.

Our primary practice areas are domestic and family violence, family law (including divorce and separation, children’s matters and property settlements), employment law, discrimination law, Care and Protection matters and Victims of Crime compensation.

We are also committed to delivering innovative and responsive services, and the Centre includes the Mulleun Mura Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Access to Justice Program and new Health Justice Partnerships with Calvary Public Hospital Bruce and the Gungahlin Child and Family Centre.

What we’re looking for – Board Directors

We are looking for Expressions of Interest from women who would like to join the Centre’s Board. We currently have one vacancy in a seven-woman Board. We expect to have additional vacancies later in the year and are looking to create a merit list of suitably qualified women.

Board Directorships are volunteer positions. We are always looking for women with previous experience on other community or NFP boards or other governance or senior management expertise and a commitment to supporting our strategic direction and raising our profile.

We are particularly looking for women with strong communication, marketing and fundraising skills and women who have supported expanding, evolving and innovative community organisations through change and growth.

What we’re looking for – Finance Committee Members

We are also looking for women who would like to join the Centre’s Finance Committee, with a view to joining the Board in the longer-term. We are looking for women with qualifications in accounting, with a passion for supporting strong financial management and ensuring our finances support our strategic direction  

Women under 45; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women from CALD backgrounds and women with disability particularly encouraged to put in an expression.  

Please send your CV and an EOI outlining your relevant experience and why you are interested in the position to Elena Rosenman, Executive Director at erosenman@womenslegalact.org by Friday 17 May 2019 . For more information about these opportunities please call Elena on 6257 4377.

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

16/17 Annual General Meeting

The Women’s Legal Centre Board warmly invites you to join the Centre for our 16/17 Annual General Meeting.

Date: Wednesday 1 November 2017
Time: 1 – 2pm, light refreshments from 12:30 pm
Venue: Women’s Legal Centre Conference Room

The AGM will include the following agenda items; Tabling of minutes of previous Annual General Meeting held on 25 November 2016 (attached);  Tabling of the Chair’s Report on the activities of the Association, the Audited Statement of Accounts and Auditor’s Report.

Please RSVP to agarside@womenslegalact.org by Monday 30 October.

The meeting will also elect the Centre’s Board. If you would like to consider nominating for the Board, please contact the Centre’s Executive Director role on 02 6257 4377 or erosenman@womenslegalact.org in the first instance to discuss the role.

Membership

If you have not yet renewed your membership for 2017/18, you will find a membership renewal form on the membership page of our website. Please complete this form and return it to us at agarside@womenslegalact.org. This form and membership payment must be received by COB Monday 30 October 2017.

MEDIA RELEASE: COMMONWEALTH ATTORNEY-GENERAL VISITS CANBERRA WOMEN’S LEGAL CENTRE

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, erosenman@womenslegalact.org

MEDIA RELEASE: Women’s Legal Centre welcomes ACT Greens’ commitment to tackling violence against women

The Women’s Legal Centre welcomes the ACT Greens’ commitment to provide additional funding to the Centre as part of their approach to tackling violence against women.

The Centre is currently facing a funding crisis as a result of the reduction of Commonwealth support for community legal centres. The ACT Greens have today announced a commitment to meet this gap in the Centre’s funding and ensure vulnerable women in Canberra have access to legal advice and representation.

Specialist legal advice is a crucial part of improving gender equality and addressing violence against women. The ACT Greens have recognised this by including Canberra’s only specialist women’s legal service in their platform on gender equality and violence against women. Specialist legal advice can support women’s workforce participation and economic security as well as protect personal safety and prevent ongoing violence.

The Centre’s Executive Director, Elena Rosenman said, “In the last year, the Women’s Legal Centre has assisted over one thousand women. We helped these women make safe care arrangement for their kids, reach a fair division of their property with their ex-partner, secure compensation after a violent crime or be paid properly and fairly for the work they do.”

“The women who come to us for advice and assistance have no other options.”

Despite this, from 1 July 2017, Commonwealth contribution to community legal centre funding nationally will fall by 30%. This could translate to the loss of a third of the Centre’s core funding and would lead to a reduction in the Centre’s services.

Ms Rosenman continued, “Without decisive action from the incoming ACT Government, next year 300 of the most vulnerable women in Canberra will have to go through legal processes with no legal support at all. This commitment from the ACT Greens is a great step towards ensuring those women have access to legal advice and representation.”

Media contact:
Elena Rosenman, Executive Director, 0408 133 115, erosenman@womenslegalact.org

NEWS: WOMEN’S LEGAL CENTRE EMPLOYEE RECOGNISED AT 2016 NAIDOC AWARDS

2 July 2016

Teletha Elemes named Canberra & District Aboriginal Community Sector Worker of the Year

The Women’s Legal Centre’s Aboriginal Legal Liaison, Teletha Elemes was named the Canberra & District Aboriginal Community Sector Worker of the Year at the NAIDOC Ball.

The Canberra & District Aboriginal Community Sector Worker of the Year is supported by Bank Australia and the ACT Council of Social Services.

Teletha Elemes has worked with the Centre for the last four years. She has worked with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Program and has recently been appointed as the Aboriginal Legal Liaison in the Centre’s new Domestic Violence Program.

Ms Elemes was recognised for her responsive, empathetic and assured support to Aboriginal women in Canberra and the region.

Teletha is a sensitive and skilled advocate. She provides information, support and advocacy to individual women and has assisted a high number of Aboriginal women to engage with the justice system to support better outcomes for themselves, their families and their communities. Teletha will now be working in the Centre’s Domestic Violence Program to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to get the information and support they need from legal assistance services.

Since being at the Centre, Teletha has also developed a 10 week community education program, Knowing Your Rights. Knowing Your Rights was developed in consultation with Aboriginal women and service providers in Canberra and the surrounding region. It is designed to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and educate them about their legal rights and legal processes including family law, domestic violence, consumer rights and receiving government services. Teletha has presented the Program with young Aboriginal women and older women across Canberra and the region.

Teletha is a highly valued member of the team and the Centre congratulates her on such a  well-deserved award.

For more information, please contact Elena Rosenman, Executive Director on 02 6257 4377  or erosenman@womenslegalact.org.

MEDIA RELEASE: Canberra lawyers rally for community legal centre funding – Wednesday 18 May 2016

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Lawyers call for legal help for the most vulnerable

Canberra lawyers will rally on Wednesday 17 May to call on the Federal Government to reverse dramatic funding cuts to community legal centres and ensure they can meet the needs of Canberrans who need legal help.

The rally will start at 8am on Wednesday 17 May at the Community Legal Centre Hub at 21 Barry Dr, Turner and is scheduled to end at 8:45am at the ACT Supreme Court.

Community Legal Centres are funded by the Federal and ACT Governments, but Commonwealth contribution to funding to community legal centres in Canberra is due to plummet by almost 30% in July 2017. The looming crisis in community legal centre funding in Canberra will be felt by those people who need the support the most.

In Canberra, the Women’s Legal Centre, the Care Consumer Law Centre, Canberra Community Law and the Tenants’ Union provide crucial support to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. They provide legal assistance to people who would otherwise go without. Together, these services provided over 6000 pieces of advice and took on over 500 cases over the last 12 months.

Julie Dobinson, Chair of the Women’s Legal Centre Board and Partner at one of Canberra’s preeminent family law firms said, “Lawyers understand it is not enough to build a legal system, you have to support people to be able to use that system. If a woman is leaving a violent relationship and doesn’t have access to any legal advice, she is more likely to make an agreement with her ex partner that does not protect her safety, her kids’ safety or her financial security. If her matter does go to court she is open to being cross-examined by her violent ex-partner. Legal assistance is a crucial part of responding to domestic violence.”

Daniel Stewart, Chair of the Canberra Community Law Board and Senior Lecturer at the ANU Law School said, “It just makes good economic sense to fund community Legal Centres properly. We want to prevent Canberrans from falling into crisis. Early, specialist legal advice for those who would otherwise go without can prevent the escalation of legal problems. This reduces costs to the justice system and other areas of government spending, including health, housing, social security and emergency assistance.”

Julie Dobinson said, “Many Canberra lawyers donate significant amounts of time and expertise to community legal centres pro bono. This rally is an opportunity for us to show the Canberra community our support for access to justice for all people.”

Media contacts:
Elena Rosenman, Executive Director, Women’s Legal Centre, 0408 133 115
Genevieve Bolton, Executive Director, Canberra Community Law, 0417 192 780
Deb Pippen, Executive Officer, Tenants’ Union ACT, 02 6247 1026
Carmel Franklin, Director Care Financial Counselling and Consumer Law Centre, 0402 011 600

LAW WEEK EVENT: Lessons for the Legal Profession: Challenging sexual harassment in the workplace

Almost half of women working in media have report experiencing intimidation, abuse or sexual harassment in the course of their work.

Within the legal profession, 25 percent of women will face sexual harassment,  40 percent will experience discrimination. Retention rates for women lawyers are alarmingly low.

Despite the high incidence of sexual harassment in many professions, the number of formal complaints remain largely static.

The Women’s Legal Centre will be hosting a panel on Thursday 19 May 2016, as part of Law Week 2016.

Time: 12:00 PM -1:30 PM
Venue: Meyer Vandenberg, Level 2, 121 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra City
Cost: $10 per person (Inc. GST)
RSVP: ACT Law Society

Chaired by former Fair Work Commissioner, Barbara Deegan, this panel will  reflect on current issues and what affects women’s decisions to complain when working in small, professional communities such as law and media. Emma Macdonald, senior reporter for The Canberra Times and representative of Women in Media will discuss recent research and reform in the media profession. She will be joined by Kavina Mistry, President of the Young Lawyers Association and Belinda Barnard, Human Rights and Discrimination Law Policy Adviser at the ACT Human Rights Commission to discuss motivators for organisational change in the absence of complaint, with a view to supporting improved responses to sexual harassment and discrimination within the legal profession.