The Superior Court of the District of Columbia has established an integrated Domestic Violence Unit, which includes within it a Domestic Violence Court, a Domestic Violence Coordination Unit, and a Domestic Violence Intake Center. There are two Intake Centers within the District of Columbia, which serve as a ‘one stop shop’ for victims of family violence. The Intake Centers are staffed by government employees, as well as employees of non-governmental support agencies.
There are some similarities between the Intake Centers and the Domestic Violence Advocacy Support Central in Perth. This also provides a ‘one stop shop’ of family violence services, through the co-location of refuge, legal, family support, police and counselling services. A key point of difference, however, is that the Intake Center acts as a service centre for the Domestic Violence Court itself.
Providing a ‘one stop shop’ centre for a range of related services is one method of delivering the benefits of victim support, and would complement the existence of victim support workers at court or at the time the police were called. Such a centre would minimise the burden on victims, and facilitate access to the full range of government and victim services.
The intake services so provided could perform a range of functions. If staff are appropriately trained, they could assist in (for example) recording victim statements and complaints, and filing claims across a range of jurisdictions, including in the family law jurisdiction. An intake centre could act as a central point of contact for victims for basic information about pending court proceedings. For example, an intake centre could inform victims when court proceedings have been listed. It could also facilitate access to legal advice and other victim services. As in the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Victoria, a family law courts officer could be available at certain times to provide information on family law courts. The Commissions consider that intake units could be a practical and affordable measure to ensure access to the benefits of specialised family violence courts across the court system generally. In its preliminary view, state and territory governments should establish such units, where feasible.
Proposal 20–6 State and territory governments should establish centres providing a range of family violence services for victims, which would have the following functions:
- recording victim statements and complaints;
- facilitating access to victim support workers for referrals to other services;
- filing all claims relating to family violence from victims on behalf of the victim in relevant courts; and
- acting as a central point of contact for victims for basic information about pending court proceedings relating to family violence.