25 September 2023

Free legal help to raise bar for women

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A new program providing free legal services for pregnant women and new families at risk of domestic and family violence has been developed by the Community Services Directorate’s Family Safety Hub.

The program was announced jointly by the Ministers for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Yvette Berry, and Health and Wellbeing, Meegan Fitzharris.

Ms Berry said that as a result of the pilot program, Calvary Public Hospital, the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children and the Gungahlin Child and Family Centre would have easy access to free and confidential legal services.

“The aim of the new program is to make services easier to access for women whose movements and interactions may be restricted by their partner,” Ms Berry said.

“Some women may be afraid or unable to access services because they may not want a police or legal response. This confidential service will help them decide what will work for them according to their own particular circumstances.”

She said there was a one in five risk of women experiencing violence from their partner during and after pregnancy and of these women, a quarter experienced violence for the first time while they were pregnant.

“These statistics are unacceptable and this problem requires a whole of community response,” Ms Berry said.

“One of the great benefits of the pilot is that health, community and legal professionals will be able to regularly interact and share their knowledge and perspectives with one another so that they can provide the best possible care.”

Ms Fitzharris said health facilities had been chosen for the trial because women already had established relationships with the health professionals they were seeing throughout their pregnancy, making it easier for them to disclose information.

“We know that in times of need people seek help from trusted professionals,” Ms Fitzharris said.

“Our health practitioners and front line staff are professional and are not only able to explain what services and help is available, but also to provide assurances about confidentiality.”

Indicators of the pilot’s success, including service usage, referrals and the types of advice people want in this setting, will be monitored.

The program will run until the end of the 2018-19 financial year.

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