Support services for domestic violence survivors will be shut down from June in Victoria – a move the former head of the family violence royal commission has described as a “tragedy”.
Court Network deploys more than 450 volunteers a year to support people in the Family Court in Victoria and Queensland.
It costs $130,000 a year to operate, but will no longer be funded beyond June because of cuts to Victoria Legal Aid.
Its services have already stopped operating in Queensland.
“At a time when terrible cases of family violence are in the headlines almost every day, it is a tragedy that this cost-effective, valuable and humane service may not be available after June 2020,” said Marcia Neave, who leads the network and chaired the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence.
In the inquiry’s final report, delivered to the Victorian government in 2016, Ms Neave recommended expanding support services.
“They’re the volunteers who are in the court, who help people when they come in looking bewildered, or upset, or angry,” Ms Neave told Melbourne’s radio 3AW on Thursday.
“People come in really distraught, not knowing where to go, sometimes frightened because their partner is there and there’s been violence between them.
“The money is used for training and for support and supervision so they provide a good service.”
The service was initially funded by the federal government, but that funding ended three years ago. Since then, the service has been caught in a dispute between the Commonwealth and the states about who should pay.
The decision to halt funding comes just weeks after Australia was rocked when the former partner of Brisbane mother Hannah Clarke murdered her and their three children.
After the murders, Ms Clarke’s family spoke out about her ex-husband’s controlling and abusive behaviour – and her fears for her own life.
“She said to me only last week ‘Mum should I do a will? What happens to my babies if he kills me? Because he’ll go to jail for murder, who gets my children?’,” Ms Clarke’s mother Suzanne said.
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