Family violence shuttle conferencing gets underway
Parties to contested family violence restraining order (FVRO) matters need no longer sit in the same courtroom under a reform which has commenced in the Perth Magistrates Court.
Shuttle conferencing – where a Magistrates Court Registrar shuttles between separate rooms at the court – can enable the parties to reach an agreement without having to go before the Magistrate.
The aim is to make it easier and less traumatic for victims of family violence to obtain restraining orders.
Shuttle conferencing will be introduced in Fremantle and Joondalup Magistrates Courts later in the year.
Under this model, FVRO matters need not be listed for a court hearing unless either party opts out of conferencing or a negotiated agreement cannot be reached.
Courts will be working to ensure people seek legal advice before objecting to conferencing, so lawyers can explain the benefits and provide advice relevant to the circumstances of the participants.
When a dispute cannot be resolved by conferencing, the Registrar may make orders that ensure the matter is ready for a final order hearing, allowing the matter to proceed as quickly as possible.
Shuttle conferencing is part of the family violence reforms passed by State Parliament last year.
To run the program, the McGowan Government has allocated $4.7 million over four years to the Department of Justice and $2.6 million to Legal Aid.
In addition to Legal Aid, the department is funding community legal centres to provide specialist legal support to the parties.
Shuttle conferencing will be evaluated after two years and potentially expanded to other metropolitan and regional Magistrates Courts.
“Shuttle conferencing adds to a series of measures the McGowan Government has taken to tackle family and domestic violence.
“A similar reform in the ACT has seen 95 per cent of FVRO matters settled by mediation and a reduction in breaches of orders.
“Registrars presiding over these conferences will be skilled in conflict resolution and family violence dynamics.
“Diverting contested restraining orders to conferencing will see these matters finalised more quickly by avoiding a contested trial and free up judicial resources.” said Attorney General John Quigley.
“By keeping the FVRO applicant and respondent in different rooms, the conferencing model provides a more supportive and less confrontational environment to resolve disputes.
“Conferencing also makes it less likely that the victim will be required to attend a disputed final order hearing and undergo cross examination – both of which are considered traumatic.
“Suitable respondents will also have the opportunity to attend a behaviour change program, which aims to give them a greater awareness of the impact their behaviour is having on family members.
“The McGowan Government has made addressing family and domestic violence a priority, and this measure is one of many aimed at supporting survivors and helping victims to move on with their lives.” said Minister of the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Simone McGurk.