When did the initiative commence?

The project was funded from June 2012 to December 2013.

What need does the initiative respond to?

The Women, Lawyers, Workers project responded to the need for women who have experienced or are experiencing family violence to be able to access free, case-based legal advice.

“Victoria Police have come a long way in terms of their understanding of family violence but, in many cases, women who’ve experienced violence are let down by the legal system,” says project worker Kei Judd.

“A large part of Victoria Legal Aid funding is allocated to criminal matters—men who perpetrate violence are probably going to require legal advice or representation first, meaning women can’t access legal services from them because of conflicts of interest,” Kei says.

“The community legal centres, too, have limited capacity. Many CLC can’t assist with property matters or child support matters. ”

What organisations are involved in the initiative?

Women’s Health In the North, Women’s Health Goulburn North East, Berry Street Northern Domestic Family Violence Service, Georgina Martina Inc., Crossroads Family Violence Service, the Centre Against Violence in Wangaratta, Marion Community, Kildonan, and Nexus Primary Health, together with the Women’s Legal Service, formed a partnership to deliver free legal advice, via Skype, to women experiencing family violence.

What does the initiative do? Who does it support?

“The service worked holistically to allow women supported by family violence workers to access legal advice in a safe and familiar space” Kei says.

“Women who were still in violent relationships were able to get advice on issues like children, property and debt—and what their options were if they decided to leave.

“Women who had left violent relationships were able to get advice on topics like separation and divorce, property, spending time with children and what protections the law could offer.”

How is the initiative resourced/funded?

The pilot project was funded by the Legal Services Board.

Following the pilot on 2013, the Women’s Legal Service secured funding from the Legal Services Board and Victoria Legal Aid to continue the project for a further year.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to set up a similar initiative?

Women’s Health In the North, Women’s Health Goulburn North East, in conjunction with an external evaluator, undertook research about the pilot. The evaluation report was released in December 2014.

How should clients be referred into the program?

The service was rebranded as the Link Virtual Outreach Program and expanded to other regions. For information about how to access this service, contact the Women’s Legal Service Victoria.