A permanent office in Launceston for women in need of support is a welcome sight for Women’s Legal Service Tasmania chief executive Susan Fahey.
Thanks to state and federal funding for domestic violence support, the service has moved into a new office on Cameron Street, where women can access free legal advice and confidential support.
The new location means solicitors can travel throughout the North and North-East, an area identified by former Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin as a major priority for women’s services.
Ms Fahey said Dr Goodwin, who died last month, was instrumental in ensuring the Women’s Legal Service could launch its dedicated family violence unit in the North-West in 2016.
She said Dr Goodwin was also clear that the service was needed in Launceston.
“That’s effectively where the family violence action plan money came in, Vanessa saying ‘right this is where we want you’,” Ms Fahey said.
“We’re really pleased to be able to deliver that, knowing how keen she was to have that happen.”
Having the ability to meet Launceston and North-East clients face to face in a safe and welcoming environment was important, Ms Fahey said, taking away the complexities of managing paperwork and emotional support over the phone.
“Particularly as a dedicated family violence unit, it allows us to take on a lot of that workload and complement the other services that are providing legal services,” Ms Fahey said.
“We’re looking to work really collaboratively with those services.”
The need for dedicated legal support for women facing domestic violence was clearly identified in Launceston, she said, just as it had been in the North-West.
A common perception that domestic violence only occurs in low-income or struggling households was incorrect.
“There’s plenty of [issues] up on High Street,” Ms Fahey said.
“It’s a non-discriminative thing, family violence is across all the wage brackets and all the social demographics, and it can be equally hard to get assistance across all of those.”
The Launceston office is also partnering with the Launceston General Hospital to support pregnant women.
“We’re really excited to take that to the next level,” Ms Fahey said.
“Pregnancy is a really dangerous time, it’s where risks of family violence and incidents of family violence actually increase exponentially.”
The next goal is to secure long-term finances to keep the office open beyond the next few years. Ms Fahey said it was always a battle to secure the money needed to keep services available.