Research with Impact

Family Violence Intervention Orders by Consent 

Recommendation 77 of the Royal Commission into Family Violence highlighted the prevalence of parties negotiating Family Violence Intervention Orders (FVIOs) by consent, but also the absence of a safe and supported, best practice approach. The CIJ has been commissioned by the Department of Justice and Regulation to conduct research into the factors that are relevant to FVIOs being reached by consent, including consent ‘without admissions’. This research hopes to capture the observations of Magistrates, court staff, duty lawyers, Court Network volunteers and police to understand how FVIOs are currently reached by consent, the extent to which this practice is safe and supported, and the extent to which it promotes safety in the short and long term. 
Importantly, this research will also draw on the experiences of service users – those who have been parties to FVIOs, whether as Affected Family Members or Respondents. Accordingly, the project will explore and identify best practice approaches which better support the understanding and compliance of service users with FVIOs and which ensure that the churn of family violence matters at court does not collude in further perpetration of violence. A team of CIJ researchers will be conducting this work in five court regions around Victoria, as well as with the support of specialist family violence women’s services and specialist perpetrator services. Look out for the report on this project in 2019!

Court Support for Kids 

The experience of negotiating the terms of an FVIO can be made all the more stressful by the need of many parties, mostly women, to bring their children to court with them. As the CIJ’s research on this issue has found, mothers bring their children to court for a variety of reasons which are not recognised or catered for by a justice infrastructure designed entirely around adults. This may mean that women do not persist with their application, or that lawyers or other court staff are unable to provide them with the necessary advice in an already chaotic environment. Yet the literature and evidence around this simple challenge to the effectiveness of our legal processes is sorely lacking. 
When asked by McAuley Community Services for Women to review and evaluate their program – Court Support for Kids (CS4K) – which aims to respond to women and children’s experiences at court, the CIJ noticed this lack of evidence around the broader needs that the CS4K program was aiming to meet. As a result, the CIJ conducted a Needs Assessment of this issue, interviewing women as well as court and legal practitioners to explore how this very basic and logistical issue impacts on the usefulness of court processes. The resulting report, to be released during Children’s Week in October, highlights the very real set of needs that are going unaddressed in Victorian courts where programs like CS4K are not available.
This is despite increasing recognition that children are the invisible victims of family violence and that their experiences – and their agency in having these acknowledged – is a crucial element of improving the systemic family violence response.

PIPA Update 

The mechanics and consequences of Family Violence Intervention Orders are also a significant focus of the PIPA project as it draws to a close. As the project team has highlighted to national audiences, our research has found that a one-size fits all legal response that was designed to respond to adult intimate partner violence can often cause more harm than good when applied to adolescents using family violence. 

What’s more, this civil mechanism can often propel vulnerable young people – who may well also be victims of family violence themselves – into a criminal justice trajectory. For example, exclusions from home which are designed to provide families with much needed respite can have disastrous consequences, including the young person being placed with a separated father. Similarly, a young person’s lack of capacity to comply with an Intervention Order can see them swiftly breach it and return to the court, this time on a criminal charge. (See more in our blog, here). A serious absence of appropriate community supports, meanwhile, means that the justice response becomes the only response in many cases – with police and the courts left to deal with a problem that should have received help and support at a much, much earlier stage. 

The PIPA team will be making a range of recommendations in its final report to ANROWS, and is currently busy collating its findings in relation to the Tasmanian system, with a final workshop with Tasmanian practitioners in Hobart on 24 August. The PIPA team has also met with its fabulous Steering Committee to explore the challenges and discuss the breadth and extent of quite targeted recommendations. Though the work has yet to wrap up, Project Lead Elena Campbell wants to make special mention of the amazing Jessica Richter, our PIPA Project Co-ordinator, for her incredible, thoughtful, and conscientious work on this complex issue.

Tolls: for whom the bell tolls

In mid-2016, a coalition of community and legal assistance sector organisations sought the Centre’s help to facilitate a critical conversation on overhauling Victoria’s toll fines system -- a system that is placing unsustainable pressure on Victoria’s Magistrates’ Courts, support services, communities and families.

With the support of the Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Luke Donellan, the CIJ brought together key stakeholders from toll operators through to government departments, the Magistrates' Court and the legal assistance sector. This was probably the first time the ‘system’ had been brought together in one place to gain a shared understanding of the tolls infringements system and its impact, and to identify potential options to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system and the community more broadly.

Using design thinking methodology and guided by design thinking firm, Sheda, the workshop took on the design challenge of how we might redesign the toll infringements system for all road users, so that:
  • high-levels of compliance are maintained
  • there is early intervention so that people in genuine hardship don’t get caught in a spiral of fines/debt and ultimately a conviction or jail
  • pressure is taken off our courts and justice system so that resources can be more effectively deployed to other areas such as family violence
  • it is consistent with government values and the desire of toll operators to ensure that ‘time is better spent’
  • and that transport truly ‘strengthens communities’. 
From that workshop, a ‘journey map’ of the system was completed and a series of workshops held to generate ideas and solutions. The outcomes of the process to date have confirmed the value of design thinking in law reform as well as the important role that universities can play in providing a ‘third’ or ‘neutral’  space to allow discussion, debate and genuine problem solving to take place.

You can read participants' feedback here.

Women’s Decarceration Project 

As indicated earlier in the year at our International Women’s Day event, the CIJ is working towards a program of research and advocacy that supports women’s decarceration. As the number of women – particularly Indigenous women – in Victoria’s prisons grow, more evidence is needed to support a gender-informed justice response which addresses the underlying factors that drive women into contact with the criminal justice system and support them out of criminal justice pathways instead. 

Given the immense work and advocacy of a dedicated group of services over many decades, the CIJ wants to ensure that its research priorities address the most urgent gaps in evidence. As a result, two RMIT Social Work Masters students are conducting their Field Education 2 Semester placement at the CIJ and developing a Research Agenda for the CIJ to implement over the next few years. 
The students are completing a Literature Review and will be consulting with relevant agencies and individuals who work with women who are at risk of entering or who are already involved in the criminal justice system. These agencies will be asked to identify the most useful areas for the CIJ’s attention. Supported by the Literature Review, the CIJ will release this agenda and program for research at the beginning of 2019.
RMIT Master of Social Work students Alex Johnson and Crystal Lee
2018 Melbourne Study Tour
In 2018, ten RMIT JD students participated in a Study Tour of innovative courts in Melbourne, led by the CIJ. The Study Tour gave students an opportunity to observe the Koori Court, the Neighbourhood Justice Centre, the Drug Court, the Assessment and Referral Court and the Specialist Family Violence Court in operation. It also gave students a rare opportunity to meet Magistrates, elders, lawyers and support staff who work within those environments and talk to them about their experiences of applying innovative practices. For the first time, students also had an opportunity to participate in a simulated restorative justice conference convened by RJ practitioner Renee Handsaker and including CIJ's own RJ experts Stan Winford, Nareeda Lewers and Mary Polis. Students remarked that, although the conference was simulated, they found the experience powerful and unexpectedly emotional, and helped them to understand how RJ can can offer better outcomes to victims and offenders than the adversarial justice system we have.
Students shared their reflections from the week with each other at the Study Tour dinner, with one student saying "you wove together this incredible learning experience and held a place for us to challenge and grow our understandings of justice". 
Where are they now?
Sophie Capicchiano Young completed the RMIT JD in 2015. We had a chat with her to see what she's been up to since.
When did you graduate, what have you been up to since then?
I graduated in 2015. Since then, I have completed my masters in international law in Geneva and I have worked predominantly in legal research, specifically in international human rights law and international refugee law. I’ve published a few academic articles on the European Common Asylum System and I have another forthcoming on the Australian offshore detention regime and customary international law. In September, I start my PhD in London in international law and human rights with a focus on litigation in refugee law. I also got married along the way and adopted a dog!
Continue reading Sophie's story here
Passion with Purpose

Judge Lisa Tremewan

The CIJ recently hosted Her Honour Judge Lisa Tremewan, one of the founders of the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court in New Zealand.  The court has had remarkable outcomes and helped to turn around the lives of those affected by addiction. A podcast of the event can be found here which includes a link to an excellent video featuring graduates of the court, well worth a look. (Follow the Vimeo link in the podcast description to watch).

While Judge Tremewan was here we also took the opportunity to film a video interview for students which can be viewed

Julia Gillard on Passion, Politics and Power

What amazing timing for our event with Julia Gillard talking Passion, Politics and Power on 23 August, in the midst of a week-long Coalition Government leadership crisis! Of the turmoil playing out in Canberra at the time, Ms Gillard astutely observed, “When we see events like this in Canberra, it’s easy to think this is all about Australia, it’s all about us, it’s all about a few personalities, but I actually think it’s connected to some big trends in global politics that are worrying and need to be thought through for the future”. Ms Gillard also acknowledged that it was harder now than it had ever been to build and hold a political consensus for really deep-seated reforms. “The only thing that will ever really sustain you is that sense of purpose,” she said.
If you’re feeling disillusioned with politics and the world in general and need a little uplifting, check out the video of the event here. The event received a lot of press coverage including articles appearing in The Guardian and Law Institute of Victoria
Students: we also took the opportunity to record a video interview with Ms Gillard especially for you, so keep an eye out for it!

10th International European Forum for Restorative Justice Conference 

Stan Winford and Mary Polis presented to the 10th International European Forum for Restorative Justice Conference in Tirana, Albania on their work developing restorative justice responses to workplace injuries, together with NZ practitioner Helen Bowen. Stan also attended a two day masterclass on restorative justice for serious crime, presented by Kristel Bruntix, an experienced RJ convenor with the Belgian RJ service Moderator.

The EFRJ conference featured international speakers including civil rights activist Fania Davis, numerous presentations from restorative justice practitioners on applications for RJ and programs in youth justice, family violence and post-conflict reconstruction, as well as training sessions in a range of restorative justice practices. Mary and Stan also caught up with Belgian and Dutch restorative justice providers working on transport accident responses, and have continued a dialogue with them to share knowledge in this field which is linked to the Centre's work for the Transport Accident Commission

Brave survivor calls for change

Dorothy Armstrong, who lives with an acquired brain injury sustained through family violence, has received a Victorian Disability Award for excellence in the promoting rights, fairness and safety of people with a disability.
By bravely telling her own story and sharing her ideas for reform, she has successfully shone a light on the experiences of women with a disability who have been incarcerated.
Read More

Woor-Dungin CIJ project wins Indigenous prize at 2018 Philanthropy Australia Awards

Victorian organisation Woor-Dungin and the Australian Communities Foundation have taken out the Indigenous prize at the 2018 Philanthropy Australia Awards

Victoria Legal Aid’s ‘Criminal Connections’ conference

On Friday 27 July 2018 the CIJ’s Nareeda Lewers spoke at Victoria Legal Aid’s ‘Criminal Connections’ conference, attended by criminal lawyers. Nareeda was part of a panel that discussed different restorative approaches within and outside of the criminal justice system. Nareeda presented on the CIJ’s Restorative Justice Conferencing Pilot Program, which will conclude in September. The panel was chaired by VLA’s Amanda Carter, Managing Lawyer, Therapeutic Courts. Other panellists included Glen McLure, Manager Community Justice Portfolio, Jesuit Social Services, and Associate Professor Bebe Loff, Director of the Michael Kirby Institute for Public Health and Human Rights at Monash University and co-chair of the evaluation of the South East Centre Against Sexual Assault restorative justice pilot.

2018 Higinbotham Lecture: Why Australia needs a Charter of Human Rights

RMIT welcomes Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre to deliver the 2018 Higinbotham Lecture. Mr de Kretser will present what promises to be a significant contribution to human rights debate, outlining why Australia needs a Charter of Human Rights. More information can be found here and you can register here.
In the Media
Loneliness, panic attacks, insomnia: Life for some on the judicial bench
The Age, Good Weekend, Peter Wilmoth, 4 August 2018
Giving kids a reason to go home
CIJ Blog, Elena Campbell, 15 August 2018
Stan Winford talks with 3CR about the privacy concerns surrounding the governments new My Health Record system

3CR, Done by Law, 30 July 2018

RMIT wins National Indigenous Philanthropy Award
Radio Adelaide, The Wire, 3 August 2018
CIJ out and about
01 Sep  –  Legal Perspectives of Adolescents with Aggressive Behaviours Paediatric Society of Australia.                                 Speakers: Elena Campbell and Jessica Richter
20 Oct  –  ALA Bill of Rights. Speaker: Rob Hulls 
27 Oct  –  Uniting Church Social Justice Convention. Speaker: Rob Hulls
8 Feb -    
Understanding Crime and Rural Communities, Federation Uni. Speaker: Rob Hulls
Dec    -    Australia & New Zealand Society of Criminology Conference, WA. Speaker: Rob Hulls
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