Yesterday marked a monumental day in Shepparton's legal history, with Victoria's first dedicated specialist family violence court officially opened in the town.
Shepparton's was the first of five such courts to be opened across the state, with the purpose-built facility a response to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Attorney-General Jill Hennessy was in Shepparton for the opening, saying the building was specially designed to ensure victims of family violence were able to use the justice system in a way that was both supportive and safe.
“We know that for so many victims one of the things they fear and have concerns about is having to come face to face with an offender or the person responsible for that act of violence,” she said.
“Having facilities that are safe and secure, that are welcoming, that don’t look like traditional court in terms of the intimidating environment, which can sometimes be so frightening for people, I think it’s a real innovation and a great credit for everyone involved in the design.”
Ms Hennessy said the specialist court included separate entrances and a safe waiting space, with amenities for applicants and their children.
The court will house at least four magistrates, along with specially trained operational staff, family violence practitioners, partner agencies and other court-based services.
Additionally the court will provide a culturally appropriate response for indigenous families impacted by family violence.
“Ensuring that we're constantly listening to the Aboriginal community to provide genuine self-determination as to how we deliver and provide services is something that I'm very committed to,” Ms Hennessy said.
Ms Hennessy said current statistics were alarming, showing that more than one woman was killed each week in Australia at the hands of their partner or former partner.
Because of this, Ms Hennessy said particular emphasis was put on the safety of all victims of family violence, with this issue continuing to pose a challenge across the legal system.
“We know we’ve got really significant challenges with rates of family violence right across the state — making sure we use opportunities around builds that are going on and investment is an important part of our plan to try and make sure we can lift the specialist capacity right across the legal system,” she said.
“Shepparton should feel proud they have a state-of-the-art, very victim-sensitive facility right here in their local community.”
The Shepparton site is the first of five specialist family violence courts opened across the state, with those at Ballarat, Moorabbin, Frankston and Heidelberg set to be operational within the next year.