Maria Le Breton appointed Domestic Violence Local Court Registrar in Alice Springs
Fast-tracking justice for victims and perpetrators.
In 2016 Coroner Greg Cavanagh investigated the deaths of two Alice Springs women who had been in abusive relationships and recommended domestic violence matters be fast-tracked and prioritised in court.
This month, the new way of dealing with domestic violence in the courts took a big step forward with the appointment of Maria Le Breton as the Domestic Violence Registrar at the Alice Springs Local Court.
Officially known as the Specialist Approach to Domestic Violence, but informally dubbed the “Domestic Violence Court,” elements of the approach will start in the coming months.
Maria says the Local Court in Alice Springs is striving to be responsive, safe, accessible and tailored to victims and defendants in domestic and family violence matters.
‘I hope to develop trusting and respectful relationships with court stakeholders and communities in and around Alice Springs to help to develop a shared vision and common purpose in responding to domestic and family violence in Central Australia’, she says.
‘I hope to assist in developing robust and streamlined processes that make the court process easy for people to navigate and as therapeutic for people coming before the court as possible’.
Her background in the field of domestic and family violence is extensive.
Maria is a former case worker at a domestic and family violence refuge. She has also been an assistant co-ordinator in the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service in NSW, Director of the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service in NSW and most recently a solicitor in the Legal Aid NSW Domestic Violence Unit.
She has a Law Degree and qualifications in Indigenous Studies (Trauma and Healing).
She is under no illusion she will have her work cut out for her.
‘Initially, my role is primarily one of providing assistance in getting everything ready for the commencement of the Specialist Approach to DFV [domestic and family violence] and to engage with stakeholders to ensure we have clear processes and communication pathways in place for the Specialist Approach’, she says.
‘Once the Specialist Approach has commenced my role will change to encompass assisting in the smooth operation of the Specialist Approach, for example by coordinating risk assessments for victims and defendants in DFV matters.
‘As the project progresses, my role will include the collection and assessment of data related to the Specialist Approach to assist in review of the project’.
Work is underway to upgrade the Alice Springs Local Court so that victims of domestic violence can enter via separate entrances and have separate waiting areas, away from the accused offenders.
Previously some victims felt uncomfortable sitting outside courts in what can be close proximity to their abuser or the family of their abuser.
Even more work has been going on in the background to ensure the court will run smoothly, with access to government services and programs.
It is no easy feat to coordinate so many disparate organisations and have them work together in conjunction with courts.
But Maria says the efforts are worthwhile.
‘The Specialist Approach to Domestic Violence at Alice Springs Local Court is critical to responding effectively to DFV and playing part in creating safer communities’, she says.
‘It is well known that domestic and family violence is a significant issue in Northern Territory that has long lasting impacts upon many families and communities’.