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Court support services

Information about the services available at court for family violence affected family members and respondents.

The following services are available in the Magistrates' court that can provide support in family violence matters:

Applicant Support Workers

Applicant Support Workers (ASWs) are available at most major courts across Victoria and are an integral part of the court’s response to family violence. The ASW can help clients find appropriate support networks in the community in an attempt to ensure ongoing safety, and to provide the assistance applicants need to keep themselves and children safe from family violence.

The ASW can help with change of lock applications and assist in filing an urgent interim order.

Help is available to make decisions about safety planning, finances, housing, legal issues, children’s needs and health issues. The applicant support worker is available to female and male adults who have experienced family violence.

To make an appointment to speak to the applicant support worker clients must contact the family violence registrar. Applicants can also visit the court between 9.00 am and 4.30 pm from Monday to Friday. Applicants will probably find it easier to speak to the applicant support worker in the afternoon as they are often busiest in the morning.

Respondent Support Workers

The Respondent Support Worker (RSW) is available to male and female adults and their children who are respondents in an intervention order proceeding, or who have been charged by the police with a criminal offence arising from or including allegations of family violence

The (RSWs) are available at most major courts across Victoria and are an integral part of the intervention order process. They can assist respondents whilst at court and provide advice about court procedures.

RSWs can help respondents through the intervention order process and beyond. They establish links between the respondent and community support services, providing a range of referrals to programs and support agencies.

The RSW will explain what assistance exists to help clients make safe choices and to address violent and controlling behaviour.

Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal

If a victim of family violence had expenses to pay as a result of a criminal act of family violence, applicants can apply for assistance from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT). VOCAT can provide financial help for:

  • medical expenses
  • lock changes
  • counselling
  • loss of income, and
  • other related expenses.

For further information about making a VOCAT application, clients can ask the family violence Registrar, or Applicant Support Worker. ASW’s are excellent at assisting victims in the application process.

See Victims of crime—How to apply to VOCAT.

Koori women’s family violence support worker

The Koori Family Violence and Victim’s Support Program is a state-wide program located at Melbourne Magistrates' Court. The program helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and families seeking support, information and referrals for family violence intervention order matters.

The support workers offer support to all applicants seeking information and access to the Magistrates’ Court and Family Violence Support services. The program can help clients connect to special support and legal services that help them deal with family violence matters.

This is a free service and referrals can be made to the program by community organisations and or individuals.

The support workers can help clients with information and options about how to keep applicants and their family safe from further family violence and referral to support services in their local community. They can also provide applicants with information about victims of crime.

The support workers can explain the process at court but they cannot provide legal advice.

To speak with a Koori Support Worker, contact them by phone.

See Melbourne Magistrates' Court—Koori family violence court support program(opens in a new window).

Koori men’s family violence support worker

The program assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and families seeking support, information and referrals for family violence intervention order matters. The Koori Men’s s Family Violence Support Worker offers support to all applicants and respondents seeking information and access to the Magistrates’ Court and Family Violence Support services.

The program can help the client connect to special support and legal services that help them deal with family violence matters.

This is a free service and referrals can be made to the program by community organisations and or individuals.

The Support Workers can complete phone assessments with individuals, or they may be able to attend the court when a particular matter is being heard.

The Koori Support Workers can help with information and options on how to keep themselves and family safe from further family violence and about support services in your local community. They can also provide men with information about victims of crime.

The support workers can explain the process at court but they can not provide legal advice.

To speak with a Koori Support Worker, contact them by phone.

See Melbourne Magistrates' Court—Koori family violence court support program(opens in a new window).

Court Integrated Services Program (CISP)

The program provides accused persons with access to services and support to reduce rates of re-offending and promote safer communities. The CISP aims to provide short term assistance for accused people who have health and social needs. They work on the causes of offending by individual case management.

Referrals to the program

People have to be referred to the CISP program. These referrals may be made by police, lawyers, magistrates, court staff, support services, family, friends, or the person themselves. When referring a person to the CISP, please use the CISP referral form

For more details about the CISP program see Bail—Bail support program—CISP.

Eligibility

Any party to a court proceeding can access the CISP by referral. This includes applicants, respondents and accused from all jurisdictions of the Magistrates’ Court, including the Family Violence Division. The accused person must consent to be involved in the program.

CISP may assist where the accused is on summons, bail or remand pending a bail hearing. The program is available to the accused regardless of whether a plea has been entered or whether they intend to plead guilty or not.

CISP services

The CISP provides:

  • a multi-disciplinary team-based approach to the assessment and referral to treatment of clients
  • 3 levels of support based on the assessed needs of the client
  • case management for up to four months for medium and high risk clients
  • referrals and linkages to support services including drug and alcohol treatment, acquired brain injury services, accommodation services, disability support and mental health care
  • services for Koori clients such as the Koori Liaison Officer program.

See Magistrates' Court—Bail support(opens in a new window).

Mental Health Court Liaison Service

The Mental Health Court Liaison Service (MHCLS) is a court-based assessment and advice service. At metropolitan court locations, this service is provided by Forensicare, the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health and in rural and regional areas by local area mental health services. This service is often used by the judiciary and family violence registrars to assist applicants and respondents with appropriate links and assessments to mental health services.

The MHCLS is based at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Frankston, Heidelberg, Ringwood and Sunshine Magistrates’ Court.

What this service aims to do

The aims of the MHCLS are to:

  • divert offenders with a mental illness from the criminal justice system into appropriate mental health treatment
  • reduce rates of recidivism in offenders with a mental illness through facilitating access to appropriate mental health treatment services
  • reduce the frequency and length of custodial remands to obtain a psychiatric report.

Responsibilities include:

  • identifying and assessing people coming before the court who may suffer from a mental illness, and make linkages to an appropriate mental health facility in the community or prison system, for treatment and support
  • providing immediate impartial mental health assessment, to determine whether or not a person before the court is suffering from a mental illness
  • making an assessment to determine if a person is fit to plead
  • reassessing a person's mental state if they have a known psychiatric history
  • providing a consultancy and advice service on mental health issues to all metropolitan Magistrates’ Courts and their users
  • consulting with family members involved in the person’s care.

Court Network

Court Network has a volunteer workforce called 'Networkers', who are trained, supervised and supported to assist in providing non-legal support, information and referral services to court users. They offer free support and information for all individuals, families and friends going to court. They cannot give legal advice but they can give information about court and community-based services.

Networkers can be pre-booked prior to a court date by email: admin@courtnetwork.com.au

Court Network accepts referrals and will refer court users to agencies and practitioners that may be able to assist them before, during and after court.

Assistance they can provide

Court Networks can assist court users before court by:

  • providing information about court procedures
  • providing referrals to legal services and community resources
  • assisting in organising interpreters and disabled access
  • showing court users around the Court so they can become familiar with where they have to go on the day of their court case
  • making arrangements to ensure someone's safety when they are at Court, and
  • pre-booking a Networker to provide support on the day.

See Court Network(opens in a new window).

Court Advice and Support Officer (CASO)

The Court Advice and Support Officer (CASO) service has been developed to provide advice to magistrates, other court staff and lawyers and to assist court users in accessing court, government and community services.

CASO aims to provide advice and responsive assistance in situations where other court services are not appropriate.

Eligibility

All court users are eligible for the service, including accused, applicants and respondents in the Family Violence Division and parties to a civil matter.

Support provided

CASO works closely with court support services at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court including the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP), Forensicare Mental Health Court Liaison Service, Youth Justice and the Salvation Army.

While the key role of the CASO is to provide advice regarding options for court users, at the request of a magistrate the CASO can facilitate linkages (including advocacy and referrals) to a number of court, government and community support and treatment services, including: Medical, Drug and alcohol and pharmacotherapy, Mental health, Housing, Centrelink, Department of Immigration, Office of Public Advocate, Public Trustees, Counselling services, Aged care services.

More information

Related pages

Acknowledgement

Thanks to Annie Mereos, VLA's Legal Police and Professional Development co-ordinator, Legal Help (and former Family violence registrar at Melbourne Magistrates' Court) for information about these referral services.

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