Family violence victims will be spared confronting their abusers in court as Australia’s justice system increasingly adopts web-based resolution options.
The Federal Court, the Family Court and the Circuit Court of Australia have all agreed to use online dispute resolution platform Immediation.
The switch to technology is intended to help fast-track complex family matters and to prevent people from having to confront their perpetrators face-to-face as domestic violence incidents spike under coronavirus lockdown.
It comes as Queensland’s Health Minister Steven Miles reported a rise in the number of family violence victims presenting to hospital with traumatic injuries.
“I’ve been disturbed to hear from our emergency department staff that the reduction in sporting injuries and road trauma has been partially offset by trauma caused by domestic and family violence,” Mr Miles said on Wednesday.
“Anything we can do to address this increase in domestic and family violence during this pandemic, I think is really important.”
Lockdown has forced many victims of abuse to live in a constant state of fear – confined to a house with their abuser, there are precious few opportunities to make a private phone call.
The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has also led to severe financial stress, worsening existing tensions in relationships and making it even harder for victims to leave.
The courts’ ability to deal with complex disputes online alleviates some of the pain for victims during an extremely challenging time.
Laura Keily, an experienced barrister and founder of tech startup Immediation, said her online platform was designed to “remove the traditional pain-point for clients” and to help lawyers resolve matters quickly.
“Today’s tragic pandemic has illuminated the crucial importance of technology to the operation of our justice system in a crisis,” Ms Keily said.
“Technology can not only aid the work we do as legal professionals, but ultimately help us move closer to making justice more accessible for all.”
“If you’ve been in an abusive relationship, having to come face-to-face with your perpetrator is incredibly confronting,” said Women’s Community Shelter CEO Annabelle Daniel.
“Being able to do that online, one step distant, can be enormously sanity saving for people who have experienced psychological or physical abuse.”
Ms Daniel urged people in abusive relationships to seek help.
“We are here,” she said.
“Don’t hesitate to reach out. There are local services on the ground in the communities.”
Jacqui Watt, CEO of men’s referral service No To Violence, said the adoption of online mediation technology by top Australian courts was a “sharp relief with the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns”.
“It can take an enormous amount of heat and stress out of the interaction to do things via video,” Ms Watt told The New Daily.
“While it is still confronting to have to come in contact with someone who has been abusive to you in a relationship, it does put you at one step further distance.”
On Thursday, Federal Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston announced $2.4 million of federal funding to enable No To Violence to scale its services nationally.
Ms Watt said the funding boost was a “game changer” and urged men who were using violence or about to use violence to seek help by calling 1300 766 491.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.
In an emergency, call 000.