Koori community working with court to improve family safety
Members of Melbourne’s Koori community experiencing family violence can now access specialised support with the launch of a new program at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.
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.
The service includes women’s and men’s practitioners who will work with applicants and respondents to guide them through the court process, including family-violence-related intervention orders, and criminal or Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal matters.
The Royal Commission into Family Violence found that Victoria’s Koori population experiences family violence at significantly higher levels than other Victorians, and this impacts particularly on Aboriginal women and children. Aboriginal women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised from family violence and almost 11 times more likely to be killed because of violent assault.
The Umalek Balit program was developed in conjunction with the Koori community and is designed to redress the historical inequities of Koori people within the justice system.
It builds on a previous Koori family violence program that was in place at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court from 2011-2016. This program will increase the court’s capacity to respond to Koori court users; respond to risk factors that impact on Koori court users and integrate with service providers to improve access to court services.
In launching the service at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Friday, Deputy Chief Magistrate Felicity Broughton said the program delivers one of the key recommendations from the 2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Ms Broughton, who is the Supervising Magistrate for Family Violence and Family Law, said the program was a significant step forward for Victorian courts in recognising and responding to the unique cultural needs of the Koori community.
“The Royal Commission identified that the reintroduction of a culturally appropriate service has the potential to make a significant contribution toward the long-term goal of improved Koori community confidence in the courts and justice system,” she said.
“The Royal Commission recognised that the courts are central to the experience of the family violence system for many survivors and perpetrators of family violence. Our aim is for a family violence court system that empowers Aboriginal self-determination and recognises and builds on the strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, families and communities to live free from violence.”