Community Legal Centres on the Frontline: Women in Mitchell Shire supported to help other women address family violence

June 09, 2022 |

A new program for women in Mitchell Shire will help address the very high rates of family violence in the community.  

The Mitchell Shire Peer Education Program, which is being run by Northern Community Legal Centre (NCLC), has received funding from the Victoria Law Foundation.

NCLC CEO Jenni Smith said the new program would draw on the support of local women and train them to become community leaders to help prevent family violence in the community.

“The most common legal problem our clients face is family violence – often compounded by issues of isolation and disadvantage – so this is a big focus of our services and programs,” she said. 

The peer education training will allow the women to learn the causes of family violence and how to respond to and support someone experiencing family violence, including where they can go for help.

Mitchell Shire has some of the highest rates of family violence incidents and child protection reports in Victoria, with many families experiencing isolation as infrastructure fails to keep up with population growth. This innovative project provides a grassroots response by encouraging local women to create a network of support using community-led engagement strategies.  

“We have found peer education to be the best way to reach isolated women with educators who are able to engage with women at the places they frequent and where they feel safe,” Ms Smith said.

“For many women, having a trusted source of accurate information and support is the first step towards safety for themselves and their children.”  

Northern Community Legal Centre provides free legal services to women experiencing family violence with around 1,000 women a year accessing the service.  Early access to support and legal advice for families experiencing violence can significantly lessen the harms and impacts.

“Once we are provided with the opportunity to engage with affected women, there are a range of legal protections we can put in place including family violence intervention orders, safe child contact orders, access to victims of crime assistance, and addressing debt arising from financial abuse,” Ms Smith said.

Northern Community Legal Centre was one of five Community Legal Centres to receive funding from the Victorian Law Foundation. Eastern Community Legal Centre, Fitzroy Legal Service, Peninsula Community Legal Centre and WEstjustice also received funding under the 2021/22 Community Legal Grants program.

Find out more about the Northern Community Legal Centre here.

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