Women living in rural, regional or remote areas are at a higher risk of experiencing family violence.[1] One of the recent studies on legal needs in rural, regional and remote areas identified a mix of multiple needs in the areas of family violence (73%), housing (69%), and family law (65%).[2]  Additionally, the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research crime mapping tool indicates that certain outer rural, regional and remote areas of NSW experience incidents of particular crimes at high rates –for example, assault and sexual offences.[3] Meanwhile, Saunders’ recent research into sexual harassment in the workplace in rural, regional and remote locations has found that of 84 rural women interviewed, 73% reported having experienced unwelcome sexualised behaviour in the workplace.[4]

 

For women experiencing family violence there are a number of barriers to obtain access to justice. They range from a lack of appropriate and accessible support services to a lack of transport that compounds barriers to safety.[5] Furthermore, women experiencing family violence are disadvantaged by a lack of local access to specialist Magistrates’ Courts including the Family Violence Division.[6]

 

Harris et al report ‘an inequitable provision of justice services between metropolitan and rural, regional, and remote communities, raising concerns regarding equitable justice outcomes’. They identify particular risks for people with a mental health condition, survivors of family violence, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse [7] backgrounds and children who engage with Magistrates Courts in rural, regional, and remote Australia. Additionally, the Centre for Rural Regional Law and Justice has particularly drawn attention to the need to expand family violence specialist services to regional Magistrate’s Courts, as its research highlights that women’s safety is placed at risk in regional areas where the complexities of family violence are not understood or dealt with appropriately by the court.[8]

 

Other issues in courts include a lack of mediation services, poor security, and a lack of separate waiting areas or client interview rooms, safe spaces for victims of violence, and video-conferencing facilities in smaller regional courts.[9] With limited telecommunications and lack of connection to public services, rural and regional women are at risk of poorer health outcomes and have greater vulnerability to family violence.[10]

 

It is vital that the government provides sufficient funding to organisations working in the areas of domestic and family violence and sexual assault, as well as ensures that women in rural, regional and remote areas have equal access to services including access to court facilities, transport and telecommunications.

 

For more resources check out The National Rural Women’s Coalition https://nrwc.com.au/  

References cited:  

[1] The Women’s Services Network (WESNET), 2000, Domestic violence in rural Australia: a literature review, Department of Transport and Regional Services, Canberra: http://dpl/Books/2000/DomesticViolenceRegional.pdf. See also: Domestic and family violence in regional, rural and remote communities An overview of key issues Monica Campo and Sarah Tayton CFCA Practitioner Resource— December 2015 https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/domestic-and-family-violence-regional-rural-and-remote-communities). See also: Lucinda Jordan and Lydia Philips, Women’s experiences of surviving family violence and accessing the Magistrates’ Court in Geelong, Victoria (CRRLJ, Deakin University: 2013, 9, citing eg Council of Australian Governments, National Implementation Plan to Reduce Violence against Women (Commonwealth of Australia: 2012).

[2] Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (‘HRCLS’), Piecing together the puzzle: the perspective of community organisations about legal need (June 2015), https://humeriverinacommunitylegalservice.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/piecing-together-the-puzzle-theperspective-of-community-organisations-about-legal-need/

[3]See: http://crimetool.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/bocsar/

[4] Skye Saunders, Whispers from the Bush: The Workplace Sexual Harassment of Australian Rural Women (TheFederation Press: 2015), 2-3.

[5] Lucinda Jordan and Lydia Philips, Women’s experiences of surviving family violence and accessing the Magistrates’ Court in Geelong, Victoria (CRRLJ, Deakin University: 2013, 9, citing eg Council of Australian Governments, National Implementation Plan to Reduce Violence against Women (Commonwealth of Australia: 2012).

[6] Tony Vinson and Margot Rawsthorne, with Adrian Beavis and Matthew Ericson, Dropping off the edge 2015: persistent communal disadvantage in Australia (Jesuit Social Services/Catholic Social Services Australia: 2015).

[7] Law Council of Australia, Report into the Rural, Regional and Remote Areas Lawyers Survey (July 2009), https://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/policy-agenda/advancing-the-profession/rural–regional-and-remote-areaslawyers.

[8] CRRLJ and NRLJA, Joint Submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Access to Civil Justice, 4 http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/access-justice/submissions.

[9] Law Council of Australia The Justice Project (2017) Rural, Regional and Remote Australians Consultation Paper

[10] Safe And Strong A Victorian Gender Equality Strategy, The State of Victoria, available at http://www.vic.gov.au/system/user_files/Documents/women/161108_Victorian_Gender_Equality_Strategy_ONLINE.pdf