In December 2014, the Committee for Greater Shepparton invited Goulburn Valley CLC and the Goulburn Valley Law Association to participate in a roundtable meeting to canvas our region’s needs for the new Shepparton Court Precinct.
Following on from that event, in February our Managing Lawyer, Kaz Gurney, and Georgia Morrissey from the Goulburn Valley Law Association joined the Court Steering Committee, chaired by the Chief Magistrate. The committee will guide the redevelopment of Shepparton Courts.
Membership of this committee provides us with an excellent opportunity to ensure that the court redevelopment meets the needs of its most vulnerable and disadvantaged users, many of whom are our clients.
We assist clients at Court on an almost daily basis. We regularly help clients to obtain Intervention Orders and represent people with criminal matters who are unable to obtain a grant of assistance from Victoria Legal Aid. In addition we facilitate client engagement with relevant support agencies to ensure that underlying issues are dealt with so that clients do not cycle back through the justice system. These issues include substance abuse, poor mental health, acquired brain injuries, intellectual impairment, homelessness, financial distress and the fallout from prior sexual or physical abuse.
Our Therapeutic Justice project in particular, funded by the Legal Services Board and Commissioner, assists the Court and clients by directing people towards appropriate services, and ensuring that reports on their progress are fed back to the Court.
As well as representing the needs of clients, our participation on the committee will draw on our strong links with local agencies. We also have excellent working relationships with major government agencies including Victoria Police, Community Corrections, DHS and Youth Justice. These relationships allow us to assist clients as they work their way through the Court’s processes.
High on our wish list are interview rooms for our staff that will allow us to discuss issues with clients while preserving their confidentiality and privacy. Our work with family violence victims would be greatly enhanced if we are able to provide family violence victims with separate and secure spaces for them to be interviewed and to wait for their hearing, and secure exits to ensure their safety upon leaving court. (See also our post Family Violence Royal Commission’s Goulburn Valley insight.)
We are also keen to ensure that the new design allows for lawyers and court users to easily liaise with relevant social services such as crisis accommodation, family violence services and mental health agencies. We hope these services can be integrated into the design to ensure a seamless connection between court users and their ongoing support needs.