Danielle was the perfect candidate to spend a day at the specialist Southport Domestic and Family Violence Court in Southport. In her Justice Journeys application Danielle expressed an interest in legal services for the protection of women and minority groups.
She is a third-year student at QUT studying a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Creative Industries and recognises the value of job-shadowing to help her make career decisions. While confronted by some of the harsh realities of DFV, Danielle found the Court and its staff inspirational in the work they do to help end the DFV cycle.
Between 80 and 100 Australian women die at the hands of their male partners each year. Although initially startling, what this statistic in essence proves is that the nation’s approach to justice for victims of domestic violence has long needed change. This is perhaps why the incredible work being done by Paula Bould and the team at Southport Domestic and Family Violence Court is so inspiring; it is an essential response to an outcry for protection, and an unbelievable one at that. On Friday the 29th of April, I travelled to Southport to job shadow Paula Bould, deputy registrar at Queensland’s recently formed trial court that specialises in matters of domestic violence. From my initial brief to my departure, everyone I met exuded a sense of immense positivity; a stand out quality that has clearly made justice feel accessible for many. In some ways, the experience was what I expected; whilst observing in court and in the waiting rooms I was confronted with some harsh realities. What I could not anticipate however, was the overall sense of unity, purpose and optimism held by each and every staff member I met. From recent law graduates to the men’s program leaders to Magistrate Strofield, each person I learnt from during the day seemed driven by a mutual understanding that their work was part of the important, shared goal to end domestic violence. The negative nature of the issues was not a focus.
I was particularly impressed by Magistrate Strofield’s down to earth, caring approach to dealing with the aggrieved and the respondent which perfectly struck a difficult balance between ‘we have no tolerance for domestic violence’ and ‘I’m here to help both of you’. Later in the day I had the privilege of meeting his Honour, who gave me the invaluable advice that in my legal career, it is always vital to find purpose in what I do.
It was not just the positivity however, but the holistic, hands-on approach to tackling the underlying issues surrounding domestic violence that impressed me. During my time in the office, I observed first-hand the respectful, understanding way both women and men facing issues with domestic violence were treated, whether they were making an initial application or returning to court. I was particularly surprised at the immediacy with which extensive support services were available; from duty lawyers and separate rooms for men and women who wished to utilise them, to a 24 week program for men which tackles the problem from the bottom up. Considering the number of barriers that prevent victims of domestic violence from seeking justice, it was joyful to see that there is a place where women can walk in, seek help in a private setting, and be greeted with ‘we are here to protect you now’, ‘do we need to find you somewhere to stay tonight?’ and ‘are your children safe and ok?’.
I was not surprised when Paula told me that, since its establishment, the number of cases of domestic violence that have surfaced has increased dramatically, because with a system as efficient as this one, it is no wonder the Southport Domestic and Family Violence Court are lifting the cloak on domestic violence.