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.



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