When did the initiative commence?

The Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC) in Collingwood opened for service in 2007. It was the first community justice centre in Australia. Whilst the NJC’s multijurisdictional Magistrates’ Court has heard family violence matters since its commencement, the family violence specific response that the centre adopts began in 2009.

How did it come about? What need does it respond to?
The NJC was initially established as a means to address the fact that the City of Yarra had the highest crime rates in Victoria. The model was based on community justice centres in New York (USA) and North Liverpool (UK). It was designed to step outside traditional justice and court models and provide primary, secondary and tertiary interventions and to use a community development approach to address both the occurrence of crime and its impact on the community.

 What are the intended outcomes?

  • Tackle social and structural factors associated with cycles of crime and violence within City of Yarra.
  • Increase community connectedness and build social cohesion.
  • Prevent crime by working with offenders in ways that will interrupt cycles of criminal behaviour and reduce recidivism.
  • Enhance responses to victims of crime, particularly in relation to family violence.
  • Increase the confidence of local community members in and access to the justice system.
  • Reduce criminal and other harmful behaviour and improve the quality of community life in the City of Yarra.
  • Strengthen the NJC community justice model, and facilitate the transfer of innovative practices to other courts and communities.

What does the initiative do? Who does the initiative support?
The initiative supports the community of the City of Yarra including residents, services, housing, council, Victoria Police and traders.

 

‘The NJC is a centre with a court within it. Not a court with a centre around it.’
(Cameron Wallace, Manager Client Services Team)

 

The NJC offers a range of justice services including:

  • a Magistrates’ Court with jurisdiction to hear matters involving family violence and all matters that the Criminal Division hears (except for sex offences)
  • a Children’s Court
  • a Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT)
  • a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Legal responses to families and individuals presenting with multiple legal issues can therefore be coordinated, rather than dealt with by separate justice entities.

In addition, the Centre provides a broad range of integrated and coordinated services including health, welfare, legal and financial support.

What organisations are involved in this partnership/project? How does the initiative enhance partnership work?

The NJC was established with the belief that partnerships with organisations and community were fundamental to its success. The NJC has continued to prioritise and foster a multiplicity of partnerships.

Staff from at least 20 services are embedded within the NJC, including community organisations, Community Corrections, Victoria Police, Victoria Legal Aid and DSCV. The NJC funds the majority of these embedded positions. Berry Street’s Family Violence Program has been an integral partner since 2011.

The NJC convenes the Yarra Family Violence Network a key forum to support an integrated approach in preventing and responding to family violence in the City of Yarra.

How is it resourced/funded?

The NJC is funded through a range of ways including State government funding, and non-financial partnership agreements with a range of justice and social services.

How effective has the initiative been?

The NJC has been at the forefront of many innovative changes, for instance in the progressive design of the Centre, with secure waiting rooms, video links, and a secondary entrance/exit and being the first court to introduce online applications for Intervention Orders.

In a broader sense, the NJC has changed the way ‘matters’ are approached in the Magistrates’ Court. Rather than dealing with the ‘list’, the NJC has focused on supporting the people on the list. Every family violence matter is triaged and support services are organised before the matter is in front of the magistrate.

The NJC has been proactive in addressing obstacles and issues experienced by community members, workers and magistrates. For instance, the NJC and the Office of Housing developed the Intervention Order Breach Prevention Project in response to concerns expressed by women living on the local housing estates about their security once Intervention Orders were in place. A copy of the Intervention Order is sent to the security control room at the housing estate so that staff are aware of the conditions placed on the respondents.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to set up a similar partnership/undertake a similar project?

Be brave, innovative and utilise open communication.

How should clients be referred into the program?

By calling the Centre between 9am & 5pm, on (03) 9948 8777 or by dropping into the NJC.

NJC services are available to people living in the City of Yarra, whether attending court or not.  Individuals involved with the justice system include offenders, victims and witnesses.

For further information see Welcome Neighbourhood Justice Centre.