Shepparton Magistrates' Court working with Aboriginal community to improve court responses and family safety
Members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community experiencing family violence will soon be able to access specialised support with Shepparton Magistrates’ Court announced as the next location for the implementation of Umalek Balit.
Umalek Balit, which means give strength in Woiwurrung – the language of the Wurundjeri people, is a dedicated Koori family violence and victim support program that is designed to address the specific barriers faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when attending court and interacting with the justice system.
Shepparton will become the third site to offer Umalek Balit, following the successful launch of the program at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court and Mildura Law Court. The implementation of the program will help respond to the dynamic risk factors that impact on Aboriginal people experiencing family violence and integrate with local services to improve the court’s responses to family violence. The program will be expanded to additional court sites over the next 2 years.
Planning is underway for the program which has been co-designed with Victorian Aboriginal community stakeholders to empower Aboriginal self-determination and to build on the strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, families and communities to live free from family violence. This means the program is uniquely placed to address the specific barriers faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when attending court and interacting with the justice system through the provision of culturally relevant and safe services.
The service includes women’s and men’s practitioners who will work with Aboriginal women and men to guide them through the court’s family violence related response. The practitioners will provide culturally relevant non-legal expertise in relation to family violence intervention order, criminal matters arising from family violence and Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal applications. These practitioners will engage with the Shepparton Aboriginal community throughout implementation and monitoring of the service to ensure the program remains relevant to local needs.
The implementation of the program will support the launch of the first Specialist Family Violence Court at Shepparton Magistrates’ Court later this year. It will also deliver upon key recommendations of several reports and inquiries in relation to family violence prevention and response, including the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
In making the announcement, Magistrate Stella Stuthridge who is the Lead Family Violence Magistrate at Shepparton Magistrates’ Court, said the implementation of the program will be a significant step forward for Victorian courts in recognising and responding to the unique cultural and safety needs of Victorian Aboriginal communities.
“Our aim is to have a court system which empowers self-determination and builds on the strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, families and communities to live free from family violence.”