Landmark development as ARC expands to Bendigo
The Magistrates' Court of Victoria’s (MCV) Assessment and Referral Court (ARC) has opened in Bendigo, in a landmark development for mental health support in the justice system.
Operating within the newly opened Bendigo Law Courts precinct, ARC supports court users living with a mental illness or cognitive impairment by addressing the underlying causes of offending by connecting them to effective rehabilitation programs and support networks.
ARC helps build a safer community and reduce rates of reoffending through the implementation of therapeutic justice – a holistic and wellbeing-centred approach that aims to increase the court user’s mental, emotional and physical health.
One of MCV's Specialist Courts and Programs, ARC supports court users with conditions such as cognitive impairments, acquired brain injuries, autism spectrum disorder, neurological impairments and dementia.
To be eligible for ARC, court users must have substantially reduced capacity to function day-to-day and be likely to benefit from coordinated services and support.
“For many people, coming to court may be their first chance to access mental health treatment, care, and support,” Supervising Magistrate Ros Porter said.
“ARC uses an individual's contact with the justice system as an opportunity to address the underlying causes of offending because it has been proven that focusing on these factors contributes to building a safer community.
“By supporting a person’s mental health and wellbeing, we can reduce reoffending, and increase community safety.”
The commencement of ARC in Bendigo builds on the Specialist Courts and Programs already offered by MCV, including the Koori Court and Specialist Family Violence Court.
A further eight ARCs are set to open across Victoria by mid-2026 as part of a groundbreaking expansion project.
The ARC expansion project was a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System (RCVMHS) which has a 10-year vision of a comprehensive mental health and wellbeing system that offers holistic treatment, care, and support for all Victorians.