Magistrate welcomes work to stop violence

Colac Area Health’s Family Violence Forum aimed to improve support and recognition of family violence. Pictured from left are Jessi Kerr, Leah Foster, Kerryn Hynam, Noreen Toohey, Ebony Hickey, Rachael Kettle and Terry Woodcroft.

A magistrate with decades of experience says family violence cases are “prevalent” in Victoria’s courts, but support for victims is improving.

Family Violence Lead Magistrate Noreen Toohey has been a magistrate and coroner for more than 20 years.

Ms Toohey recently contributed to a Family Violence Forum in Colac to encourage community members to take action against family violence and learn about supporting victims.

She told the Colac Herald that in the past 20 years, support services for family violence victims had improved and Victoria’s courts were providing better safety measures for victims.

The State Government has committed funding to upgrade Colac’s courthouse to improve safety for family violence victims who are currently forced to sit in the same waiting room as the perpetrator.

“If you look at the royal commission and the recommendations that’s one of the things that the courts now, I think, are really addressing,” Ms Toohey said.

“It’s issues such as making sure when someone comes to court that you’ve got all of the appropriate support services, that you’ve got all of the referral services.

“And that you also ensure that when someone comes to court they feel safe because you’re not going to get people giving their best evidence if they’re frightened and worried, they have to be feeling safe.

“There’s been money allocated for some works to courts to ensure that there’s some safe waiting spaces, so you don’t have parties together has you’ve traditionally had, people queuing in the same queue, waiting in the same area for their matters to be dealt with.”

Ms Toohey said family violence cases were prevalent in the state’s courts and were a “large percentage of the work that becomes before the court”.

For the full story see today’s Colac Herald.

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