Law Week 2017 Justice Journeys

Rebecca

Rebecca, a Bachelor of Laws student at Griffith University spent two days at the Specialist Domestic Violence Court in Southport

Social justice is at the heart of Rebecca’s desire for a career in law. When she was shown a room full of files – each representing a family impacted by domestic and family violence in 2017 – she knew the Specialist Domestic Violence Court was the right place to begin her Justice Journey.

I am in my first year of a Bachelor of Laws - Graduate Entry at Griffith University on the Gold Coast. I have had a long standing interest in social justice issues and am pursuing a law degree with the hope of making a positive and tangible difference to people's lives. The Justice Journeys program seemed like a wonderful opportunity to see first-hand where my studies might take me. My placement was with the Specialist Domestic Violence and Family Court for two days during Law Week. I spent the time shadowing Deputy Registrar Paula Bould.

The Justice Journeys program is a far cry from what you might expect from a typical work experience or placement style program that might see a sitting in a corner pushing files around. Rather than sitting in a corner I spent the two days by Paula's side, attending meetings, liaising with stakeholders, out on the floor and sitting in the courtroom.

Photo for JJ Rebecca with Deputy Registrar of the Specialist Domestic Violence Court in Southport, Paula Bould.

There are files in the domestic violence registry, a whole room of files in fact (and that is just for cases from 2017). What was impressed upon me by Paula and her team, as soon as I stepped through the door, is that these files (masking as paper and administrative work) are all people. They are all people who are in need of support. And each file represents a network of children, families and friends who are also being touched by domestic violence. My two days working with the Domestic Violence Court showed me that the specialist set up has created system that is all about the people involved in the process, and that all of the staff from the two dedicated magistrates to the people working in the registry office and support services hold themselves to the highest standards of customer service in order to best serve these people.

The Specialist Domestic Violence and Family Court is part of a Queensland Government trial running from 1 September 2015 to 30 June 2017. Some of the unique features of the court include two dedicated magistrates, court support and duty lawyers for applicants and respondents, access to victim support services within the building, and referral to domestic and family violence perpetrator programs.

The court also features a separate registry office offering a private space with specialist staff who are available to assist applicants when they may be at their most vulnerable. This also means that the application is just the first step in the process and staff are equipped to refer applicants to specialist support services including the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre (which has staff working n the floor so that applicants can receive immediate advice and support).

Other special aspects of the set up includes trained volunteers who can tick off court attendees as they arrive to ensure that they have been acknowledged and provided with any on-the-day support they require, and a secure support room where applicants wait in safety prior to their time in court.

"The two days went by far too quickly and I was so impressed by the willingness of Paula and the rest of the staff at the Court to share their time with me."

Upon my arrival, Paula explained that no two days are the same in her role as Deputy Registrar. On my first day I joined two new staff and Paula explained the purpose of the court and what drives her and her team to work so hard to provide the best service possible. I sat with Paula as she talked me through many of her daily tasks and later in the day we attended a meeting with Queensland Police Service about an upcoming cultural engagement program.

The second day was even busier and started with a wonderful opportunity to meet with the Magistrate Tynan. Magistrate Tynan shared her thoughts about the importance of the work being done at the Domestic Violence Court. Passionate and dedicated do not even begin to do justice to her (or any of the other people working in the Court).

After this Paula and I greeted some delegates from the Premier's office who were visiting to view the Court in action. We spent some time watching the court proceedings, which once again confirmed the importance of creating a process that is committed to providing the best service possible. Following this we attended a Stakeholder Operational Working Group Meeting - an integral part of creating an integrated response to domestic violence on the Gold Coast.

The two days went by far too quickly and I was so impressed by the willingness of Paula and the rest of the staff at the Court to share their time with me. Justice Journeys was a fantastic opportunity and I have learned so much about the court process.