Domestic violence court support shut down
Volunteer support services in Victoria's family courts will be shut down in June and the former head of a family violence inquiry says it is a "tragedy".
More than 450 Court Network volunteers are deployed across the state, trained to support people who are distressed by the experience of going to court, who are making family violence allegations, and those at risk of being violent.
The service costs $130,000 a year to operate. It was federally funded until 2016, when responsibility was handed to the state government and funded through Legal Aid.
"It's an absolutely trivial amount of money," Marcia Neave told AAP on Thursday.
She headed Victoria's royal commission into family violence last year and also leads the network.
She doesn't blame Legal Aid for its decision to end funding in June because its services are stretched as well, but says it will be a tragedy if Court Network is lost.
"This is a kind, humanitarian service ... we're value for money," she said.
A review by KPMG in 2013 found the economic benefit was more than three times its cost.
Court networkers are relied on to support more than 2200 people a year.
Volunteers escort people to court, provide referrals to services and patrol the hallways of family courts five days a week in Melbourne's CBD and three days a week in suburban Dandenong, seeking out those who appear distressed and in need of help.
They source referrals from judges, lawyers and court security as well.
Closure of the service will have bad effects for victims and perpetrators, Ms Neave said. They don't discriminate because everyone needs support.
"For violent people, or people at risk of being violent, it's likely to increase their anger and sense of difficulty and may even result in an escalation of violence," Ms Neave said of having to navigate the court experience alone.
There are cases of people being murdered shortly after Family Court appearances.
In 2013 Melbourne mum-of-four Fiona Warzywoda was stabbed to death in the street by her former partner after leaving court.
Court Network services in Queensland have already shut down because of funding cuts.
Last month, Australia was rocked when the ex-partner of Queensland mother Hannah Clarke killed her and their three children in a murder-suicide.
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