New Family Court Program For Women Wins Unanimous Approval

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7th December 2009, 01:47pm - Views: 982





People Feature Women's Family Law Support Service 1 image

Legal, women’s family, social affairs reporters, COS


Embargoed to 6am Tuesday, December 8 




Unanimous verdict in

favour of unique

women’s court program


Interim report highlights benefits of support for women in family law process.

 

A unique court program providing free, non-legal support to women, the Women’s Family Law

Support Service,

has gained overwhelming praise from women using the service

in an interim

evaluation. The evaluation’s findings will be presented at a forum at NSW Parliament this

Tuesday. 

The achievements of the service support the argument that such programs should be

available at more Family Law Registries. 

 

The Women’s Family Law Support Service (WFLSS) began in March 2007 to provide non-legal

support, information and referrals

for women attending the Sydney Family Law Registry. WFLSS

workers offer practical and emotional support to women who find themselves confronted in court

with abusive former partners amid a chaotic and complex legal environment. Along with

information and advice, the service also provides a secure, private space for women. The WFLSS

also arranges improved security measures for women to avoid further violence and abuse. 

 

The WFLSS is unique for women going through the family law system and has gained high praise

from women who have used the service, as this quote from the report shows:  "If it were not for

her (the WFLSS worker) I think I would have shot myself, honestly."


The author of the interim evaluation, Dr Lesley Laing from the University of Sydney,

found the

WLFSS makes the family law system more accessible through the provision of support, advocacy,

information and referrals to women. 


Eighty per cent of the women utilising the service have experienced domestic violence, with most

of this group before the court to deal with parenting orders. Close to half of these women had

expressed concerns for their children’s safety. Over half of these women were not eligible to Legal

Aid and as consequence have accumulated large debts often largely to their family’s safety. 

 

It is a joint project of the NSW Women’s Refuge Movement and the Sydney Family Law Registry.  

In June 2008, funding was received from the NSW Premier’s Department‘s Office for Women’s

Policy Domestic and Family Violence Grants Program, which enabled the employment of a

coordinator. Currently, however the service is only available part-time and only at the Sydney

Family Law Registry. 

 

"Women going through the family law court who have experienced domestic violence remain at

continued risk of violence and abuse,”

says Catherine Gander, executive officer of the NSW

Women's Refuge Movement.  “We need more funding.  With major reviews occurring in relation

to family law and its interaction with domestic violence and child protection laws we must keep

simple, effective programs like this front of mind."

 

"WFLSS clients have often experienced abuse and violence and can be negotiating

complex

systems to rebuild their family’s lives,” Ms Gander said. “The evaluation shows

strongly that

WFLSS provides valuable assistance to women through this critical period."  

 

Interviews available: Two pic and interview opportunities Tuesday Dec 8. 10am outside the

Family Law Courts, 97-99 Goulburn Street, Sydney NSW 2000 or 1pm to 2.30 Waratah Room,

Parliament House with politicians and VIPs in attendance. Talent includes: Catherine Gander,

executive officer, NSW Women’s Refuge Movement Resource Centre, Dr Lesley Laing, University

of Sydney, evaluation author and Elizabeth an WFLSS service user who is an eloquent speaker with

an insight into why this service is so vital – unusually good talent.

 

Contact: Debra Maynard: 0407 299 007 or Brett de Hoedt: 0414 713 802







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