Queensland’s first specialist domestic and family violence court received an average of 10 applications for assistance every day during its first 1000 days as a permanent court on the Gold Coast.
An independent report evaluating the Special Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) Court Trial in Southport released on Friday found the court’s ability to provide sustained support, information and legal advice for victims and perpetrators was vital to access courts and improve justice experiences for victims.
The Southport Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Court 2017-21 report found over 10,600 applications for assistance for more than 13,000 people between 1 July 2017 to 31 March 2020.
Attorney-General and Minister for Women and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Shannon Fentiman said on Friday that the report’s findings were very encouraging.
“Since being made permanent in 2017 following a successful trial, the Southport Specialist Court has supported thousands of Queenslanders affected by domestic violence through the justice system,” Ms Fentiman said.
“These measures mean victims attending court can have confidence the experience won’t further traumatise them.
“After an examination of its operations, this evaluation concluded the court is proving extremely successful.
“It is delivering a coordinated, respectful, and fair system, which prioritises the safety of the victim and their children, holds perpetrators accountable, and promotes changes in attitudes and behaviour.”
Ms Fentiman said that, during the evaluation period the court made 722 intervention orders – which requires DFV perpetrators to attend a program to address their behaviour.
“The evaluation found that offenders complied with 89% of DVOs, and there was some evidence that those who did breach their DVO complied with the order for a longer period of time if they went through the specialist DFV Court,” she said.
Ms Fentiman said the DFV Court model comprised of a range of trained staff including dedicated magistrates, a specialist registry, and support services.
“It is very clear from the report that the various agencies working together is making a big difference, by connecting people with support services before, during, and after their matter has been heard in court,” she said.
“Unlike other Magistrates Courts, support services are located on site, making it easier for victims to access the help they need.
“The report suggests this support is making people seeking a domestic violence order feel safer, and more confident dealing with the criminal justice system.”
The report, prepared by ARTD Consultants, made seven recommendations for the future development of courts’ responses to DFV.
“There is clear evidence across the qualitative evaluation data sources that the Southport Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Court Justice Response (SDFVCJR) is providing a quality service, in line with the Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Court model,” the report says.
“As Queensland’s first specialist domestic and family violence court, the Southport SDFVCJR is nationally and internationally recognised as a sector-leading response to domestic and family violence, and regularly hosts visitors keen to understand and emulate the model in their own contexts.
“The SSDFVCJR draws on the national and interventional evidence base for specialist domestic and family violence courts, recognising that this evidence base is diverse and emerging.
“There are some areas in which the SSDFVCJR is leading practice, including the way it maximises opportunities to engage with clients, meets the needs of female respondents, works with respondents to protect the aggrieved and supports continuous quality improvement and innovation.”
Ms Fentiman said: “The Government will consider these recommendations as we strengthen the operations of Southport’s specialist response and improve other Queensland courts.”
“Many of its recommendations intersect with recommendations of the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce.”
In addition to Southport, Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Courts currently operate in Beenleigh, Townsville, Mount Isa and Palm Island.
Read the summary and final reports.