Legal Aid NSW launches Family Advocacy and Support Service

Law is on your side: Legal Aid NSW acting chief executive Richard Funston, Attorney-General George Brandis and Legal Aid NSW family law director Kylie Beckhouse at this week's launch in Parramatta.
Law is on your side: Legal Aid NSW acting chief executive Richard Funston, Attorney-General George Brandis and Legal Aid NSW family law director Kylie Beckhouse at this week's launch in Parramatta.

A new service has been launched to help families who have been affected by violence navigate the family law courts.

Legal Aid NSW received federal funding to establish the Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS) under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children.

Launched in Parramatta this week by Attorney-General George Brandis, the service puts lawyers who understand trauma on hand in some of the state's busiest family law courts.

A 2016 audit showed domestic violence is a factor in 76 per cent of Legal Aid NSW Commonwealth family law matters

“Coming to court can be a tremendously stressful experience – and when parenting disputes involve allegations of family violence, there is so much at stake,” Legal Aid NSW family law director Kylie Beckhouse said.

“This innovative approach will keep children and parents safer by offering the right support at a crucial time, with an emphasis on practical measures to keep them safe.”

FASS duty lawyers will assist people with family law needs – for instance in cases involving child abduction or a dispute over where a child should live – and can also help people address other legal needs that often go hand in hand with family violence, including domestic violence orders made in state courts and victims’ support.

“FASS lawyers will ensure the voices of family violence victims are heard - whether that is by helping gather evidence so that courts have access to a more complete picture of a family’s situation, or by representing a parent in an urgent application,” Ms Beckhouse said.

“But it also goes beyond providing much-needed legal support to treat the client as a whole person, with a unique story and a unique set of social and practical needs that extend well past the courtroom door. This approach recognises that families affected by violence may also have complex non-legal needs in areas like housing and mental health. It allows government agencies and community-based services to work together so that victims and children don’t slip through the cracks when they most need us, and it supports perpetrators to leave violent patterns of behaviour behind.”

Legal Aid NSW will operate FASS services at Family Court registries across NSW, including Parramatta.

Social support will be delivered through partnerships with local Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services and Relationships Australia.

Details: 9219 6300.