Andrews budget will 'save lives', says peak community legal body

Saviour: Tuesday's state budget has been lauded as one which will save lives. Stock image.
Saviour: Tuesday's state budget has been lauded as one which will save lives. Stock image.

The state government’s 2017-2018 budget has been welcomed as one which will “save lives” by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

The government has committed $1.9 billion to implement all of the 227 recommendations from the Family Violence Royal Commission.

Ballarat’s will be one of two regional courts to receive funding for a dedicated family violence court as part of a $130.3 million package to implement five specialist family violence courts in the state.

Safety: Attorney General Martin Pakula says changes to the justice system will better support victims and their families.

Safety: Attorney General Martin Pakula says changes to the justice system will better support victims and their families.

Recommendations for family violence courts include specialist staff, dedicated police prosecutors and remote witness facilities.  

The budget includes $14.5 million over four years for Victoria’s community legal centres to extend existing duty lawyer and family violence services. The funding will assist centres like Central Highlands Community Legal Centre (CHCLC) to meet increasing demand. CHCLC saw a 19 per cent spike in cases involving family violence last year. Family violence constitutes a third of the centre’s caseload. 

Federation executive director Serina McDuff said the budget’s focus on domestic violence would cater for “thousands” of people in need being turned away by the state’s community legal centres.

Upgrade: Ballarat Magistrates' Court will be one of two regional courts upgraded as specialist family violence courts.

Upgrade: Ballarat Magistrates' Court will be one of two regional courts upgraded as specialist family violence courts.

WRISC Family Violence Support executive officer Libby Jewson said the government’s package would allow critical cooperation between Central Highlands agencies to continue. 

“This funding will enable all agencies to work more closely together and in working together, responding to the family violence situation that we have Victoria-wide.” 

Attorney General Martin Pakula said the funding measures increase support for victims and their families in the justice system.

Budget domestic violence funds:

  • $101.2 million for a central information point for agencies 
  • $270.8 million for after-hours crisis support
  • $161.1 million for family services and 450 new child protection workers
  • $133.2 million for extra long-term housing, more rental assistance and improved crisis accommodation
  • $76.9 million for early intervention and men’s behaviour change programs
  • $50.7 million for a primary prevention strategy and to establish the state’s new Prevention Agency.