The WEstjustice and Werribee Mercy Hospital partnership was first established in 2016. The legal service is a critical entry point for early intervention family violence advice to maternity patients, as well as providing education and targeted advice on legal issues such as family law, fines, debt, and tenancy advice.
WEstjustice will use the $50,000 to build capacity in the existing service and upskill their lawyers in child protection, to better equip the service to link women with targeted support services earlier. The grant will also support the continued education of Werribee Mercy Hospital employees to help them identify family violence and related legal issues, and how they can refer people to services.
WEstjustice Legal Director Cleona Feuerring said the safe and secure environment of a maternity ward and hospital setting was a unique opportunity to deliver education, advice and support to women who might not otherwise feel comfortable or able to seek it out.
“Pregnancy and the birth of a child can heighten the risk of family violence for some women. For many women referred to WEstjustice via our partnership, it is the best way they can access legal and social support without impacting on their safety,” she said.
“We understand the important intersection between family violence, family law, child protection and criminal law, especially in reaching victim survivors at the earliest opportunity to assist in building positive life outcomes, not just legal outcomes.”
Mercy Health – Health Services Chief Executive, Professor Jason Payne, said Werribee Mercy Hospital was located in one of the fastest-growing local government areas in the state. We birth more than 3,700 babies each year and care for thousands of mothers in our maternity ward, some of whom are experiencing or are at risk of family violence. The partnership with WEstjustice enables us to support those women, and their children, at a very vulnerable time."
He added: "We congratulate WEstjustice on this well-deserved award and we look forward to further strengthening this partnership to support families in Melbourne’s west.”
Chair of the Clayton Utz Foundation, Marcus Davenport, said Clayton Utz was proud to be contributing to building capacity in the HJP sector.
WEstjustice is an example of a health justice partnership that is having a tangible, positive impact through its services. We congratulate them on being the inaugural recipient of our Award.