Courts are an essential public facility in rural and regional towns. They are particularly important for vulnerable members of the community. The new Shepparton and improved Kyneton courts are welcome regional developments. But Maryborough Courts are lagging behind.
The Maryborough Courts deal with some of the highest rates of Intervention Order applications in the state. The court is essential for people seeking legal protection from family violence. It also provides access to critical community supports.
Several safety and security measures have been implemented at the court over the past year. Security screens have been installed at the Registry counter. Security in staff and judicial areas has been improved. And security guards are posted at the entrance to the court on sitting days. While these improvements are welcome, they don’t address several significant safety and accessibility issues.
In particular, the courts require essential upgrades to ensure safety and access to justice for victims of family violence. Such upgrades would be in line with the recommendations of the Family Violence Royal Commission. We need:
- Safe and separated waiting areas for family violence applicants and respondents,
- Separate court entry and exit points for applicants and respondents,
- The installation of disability access ramps,
- Private interview rooms for police, registrars and services providers,
- Court-based or secure off-site facilities for remote witnesses to give evidence, and
- Adequate facilities for children to ensure that courts are ‘child-safe’.
With a State budget due to be handed down mid-year, our Tipping the Scales project is calling on the state government to upgrade Maryborough Courts. People experiencing family violence should feel safe and supported in the justice system.
We’ve spoken with the local member, Louise Staley MP, who has raised the issue in parliament and in local media. And we’ve had support from local legal practitioners and family violence services, many of whom are members of Go Goldfield’s Service Development Working Group, led by the Centre for Non-Violence.
We’ll be progressing the issue at the next Court User Group and continuing to talk to members of the community about how to ensure that Maryborough Courts continue to provide access to justice for Maryborough residents.