Specialist Family Violence Courts – developing best practice.

Magistrate Kate Hawkins1, Lisa Eldridge2, Robert Challis3

1 Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, GPO Box 882, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.  kih@magistratescourt.vic.gov.au 

2 Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, GPO Box 882, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.  Lisa.Eldridge@magistratescourt.vic.gov.au

3 Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, GPO Box 882, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.  Robert.Challis@magistratescourt.vic.gov.au

The increase in demand and complexities of family violence matters is a growing challenge for courts.  In Victoria, a Royal Commission into family violence found that a specialist and therapeutic jurisdiction is the recommended approach for courts to ensure that victims are safe and perpetrators are kept in view.

The Victorian Government has committed to implementing the 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission and released a 10 year plan (Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s Plan for Change) that incorporates specialist family violence courts in its vision.

This paper outlines the key features of the proposed Victorian specialist family violence courts model and how it sits within the whole of government response to family violence.


Magistrate Kate Hawkins was appointed to the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria in 2001.

Since July 2011 Magistrate Hawkins has been the Co-Supervising Magistrate for Family Violence and Family Law, together with Deputy Chief Magistrate Felicity Broughton. She provides judicial leadership of the Court’s implementation of the broad ranging recommendations made by the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence. This includes rolling out specialist family violence courts statewide across Victoria.

In 2016 she facilitated a roundtable dedicated to reducing the risk to families affected by family violence navigating the court system at the COAG National Summit in Brisbane.

Prior to appointment Magistrate Hawkins practiced as a solicitor and was a partner at a major Melbourne law firm.



Safe and Supported: Developing a MODEL for MEDIATING FAMILY VIOLENCE Cases Beyond Family Law

Dr Becky BatagolProfessor Rachael Field2

1 Monash University, 2 Bond University 

Email contacts: Becky.Batagol@monash.edu rfield@bond.edu.au

The imperatives relating to mediation and family violence remain broadly similar regardless of the context. There is a legitimate concern about the use of informal dispute resolution processes in cases of family violence because of deep power imbalances between perpetrators and victims. However, with appropriate support, a focus on safety and careful attention not to minimise the violence, there are clear potential benefits of mediation for victims of family violence. The benefits can include self-determination, certainty, reduced financial and other costs and timeliness.

A great deal of attention has been paid to mediating cases in which there is a history of family violence in the field of family law. In Australia, a model of family dispute resolution known as Coordinated Family Dispute Resolution has been pioneered for such cases.[1]

Outside the family law field, less, if any, attention has been paid to how to appropriately identify and respond to cases of family violence in mediation practice. Family violence mediation takes place in disputes with providers of essential services, such as electricity, water, banking and telecommunications, as a result of economic abuse. It may take place in child protection conciliation conferences/ADR in state Children’s Courts and it can take place in the negotiation/mediation process that takes place in finalising the conditions of family violence orders in state magistrates’ courts.

Building on mediation practice in family law, this paper will outline elements of a proposed safe and supported model of mediation for victims of family violence

[1] R Field and A Lynch, ‘Hearing Parties’ Voices in Coordinated Family Dispute Resolution (CFDR): An Australian Pilot of a Family Mediation Model Designed for Matters Involving a History of Domestic Violence’ (2014) 36(4) The Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 392


Dr Becky Batagol is a researcher and teacher with a focus on family law, family violence, non-adversarial justice, dispute resolution, gender, child protection and constitutional law. Becky is the co-author of Non-Adversarial Justice (2nd ed, 2014), Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law? The Case of Family Mediation (2011) and the author of many academic articles. Becky is a contributor to the ADR Research network blog and tweets regularly under the handle @BeckyBatagol. Becky has taught the world-first subject Non-Adversarial Justice at Monash University for the last decade and she was awarded a National Tertiary Teaching Award in 2014.

Professor Rachael Field has published widely in her areas of research interest which include dispute resolution, women and the law and family law, the first year experience, legal education, and student success and well-being. Her research portfolio of publications is regularly cited and her work in the areas of mediation and domestic violence, legal education and law student success and well-being has had significant national impact and also some international level influence. Rachael’s research and scholarship in the areas of legal education and student success and well-being has had significant impact at a national level and is also beginning to have impact at an international level. Her impressive body of research work contributed to her being named 2013 Queensland Woman of the Year.

Non-Adversarial Approaches to Domestic Violence: Interrogating How Theory and Practice Can Be Better Integrated

Judge Hayman,1 Rachael Field2

1 The Honourable Judge Eugene Hyman (Ret.), Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara

2 Dr Rachael Field, Professor of Law, Bond Law Faculty, Bond University.

Increasingly a paradigm shift from a punitive, retributive model to one of rehabilitation and healing is evidenced by the introduction of specialized domestic violence (DV) courts. These courts adopt a range of therapeutic justice principles in the use of non-adversarial approaches to DV matters. As an alternative to, and in combination with formal prosecution, the use of non-adversarial approaches to DV has the potential to deliver justice to victims and families in a comprehensive and healing manner, lay the foundation for a durable solution to changing violent behaviour, and reduce the prospect of recidivism in a possibly more efficient cost-effective manner. While the advantages are numerous, there are also caveats.

In this paper we evaluate the advantages and caveats through a critical lens against a rigorous set of criteria. We argue that it is important to ensure that practise developments are informed by well-established, evidence based theory.

This paper explores why it is vital to acknowledge the safety of victims as a priority, and achieve best practice in relation to risk and safety assessments, restraining orders, and victim services. Mechanisms that hold the offender accountable – such as monitoring compliance with orders, judicial or other supervision, and the presence of consequences for non-compliance – are also considered. We explain the need for the development of a comprehensive screening protocol that excludes egregious re-offenders but identifies offenders who are both willing and capable of reform. We argue for additional training for first responders such as police and community groups, as well as for judges and program facilitators. And we explore the need for the accessibility of information given that DV cases often present in many courts such as civil, family, criminal and probate courts. In the development of more appropriate approaches to DV, practises that allow processes and protocols to be perceived as procedurally fair to all parties are necessary.


Judge Eugene M Hyman is retired from the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara (San Jose) where, for 20 years, he presided over cases in the criminal, civil, probate, family, and delinquency divisions of the court. He has presided over an adult domestic violence court and in 1999 presided over the first juvenile domestic violence and family violence court in the United States. Judge Hyman has published articles on issues surrounding domestic violence in the criminal and family courts–especially with co-occurring issues of substance abuse and mental health. He has a special interest in domestic violence as it affects children in the home and in the family court setting. He has special understanding of sexual abuse, stalking, and strangulation, as they intersect with domestic violence. Judge Hyman taught as a Lecturer in Law at the Santa Clara University School of Law for 21 years including a course “Domestic Violence Law Seminar”. In 2008, Judge Hyman was honored with the United Nations Public Service Award.

Rachael joined Bond Law School as a Professor in 2016. Her areas of research expertise include dispute resolution, family law and domestic violence and legal education. Rachael has received a number of national teaching awards including a national citation in 2008, a national teaching fellowship in 2010 (through which she developed curriculum practices for the promotion of law student well-being) and a national teaching excellence award in 2014.  Rachael is the founder of the Australian Wellness Network for Law, which is now expanding internationally.  She is also co-founder of the Australian Dispute Resolution Research Network. She has a portfolio of more than 70 scholarly publications, and is co-author of four books. Rachael’s community service has been focussed on volunteering on the management committee of Women’s Legal Service, Brisbane since 1993. She has been president of the Service since 2004. In 2013 Rachael was named Queensland Woman Lawyer of the Year

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