Published: 24 September 2015
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas
Legal help for women in hospitals – PMs call to stop violence against women
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s $100 million initiative on violence against women announced today includes extra funding to extend an innovative legal service "embedded" in some hospitals.
In particular, funding will be made available to extend the deployment of duty lawyers in our hospitals.
Community legal services along with assistance from law firms are already engaged in this new type of program, operating at the coalface where medical teams deal first hand results of domestic violence.
The schemes are called advocacy health alliances, and are a pioneering model that integrates legal assistance within patient care involving doctors, nurses, midwives and lawyers.
I can speak from personal experience about the service, as Ryan Carlisle Thomas is one such firm. We work on a pro bono basis with the Inner Melbourne Community Legal Service operating at the Royal Women’s Hospital Melbourne. This service does a tremendous job in helping a vulnerable part of our community through direct face-to-face support, despite very limited funding.
Research within Australia shows that legal professionals are only consulted for around 16% of legal problems, whereas most people readily seek the help of health and welfare practitioners. So if you want to more effectively reach the victims of domestic with legal advice, it is best to do it in conjunction with health professionals.
Being part of this program has proven to me the high demand which exists for such legal services, and for the value in working with medical and social work staff within hospitals so that they are better able to recognise the signs of domestic violence and assist victims in seeking help. Legal advice can empower women by making them aware of avenues for protection as well as their rights and entitlements.
Better enforcement of Protection Orders
The initiative will also increase funding for police to more adequately respond to domestic incidents and hopefully will improve the enforcement of Intervention Orders - an area of the justice system which is severely under resourced and requires urgent attention.
This new step from a Prime Minister so early in his term of office is a positive step forward for women and families.
Combined with the recommendations likely to flow from the Royal Commission into domestic violence, we will hopefully start to see positive action taken on violence against women, which as Mr Turnbull says, is a national disgrace.