The CEO of the WLST Yvette Cehtel, today acknowledged that all first responders need to be aware of the safety of women experiencing family violence. This includes police and lawyers.
Ms Cehtel said the death of Olga is a reminder that all presentations to police and lawyers, where family violence is an issue must be carefully assessed. Ms Cehtel said it is important that specialist legal services continue to work in a holistic way to address client needs. Safety planning for clients is critically important.
WLST does this through offering support through either Engender Equality or through the Family Violence Counselling and Support Service. WLST also has a social worker and financial counsellor in house available to our clients.
Ms Cehtel also raised the importance of a safety planning system sitting across all courts.
These systems improvements might not have been enough to prevent the death of Olga, but we must learn from her tragic death. No court ever had the opportunity to consider her circumstances.
WLST agree with the Australian Law Reform Commission that lawyers need more support and training on family violence. Recommendation 52 of the report recommends all family lawyers receive annual family violence training. We agree with that, Ms Cehtel said. We at WLST have been working with the Law Society of Tasmania to increase awareness of family violence within the legal profession. In particular we need to improve our understanding of coercion and control and what that looks like. It also appears to be a feature of the behaviours Olga was experiencing – This is family violence. Understanding the manipulative elements at play is important for legal practitioners to understand.
We all need to do better to assist and support members of the community experiencing family violence. This case is a tragic reminder of what happens when systems designed to protect women fail. We can and must learn from this tragic death as a profession. No doubt Tasmania Police will also learn from this and ensure that reports of family violence are always “formalised” and assessed. It is clear a detailed history of the family violence was not gained. This approach from Tasmania Police is inconsistent with the Safe at Home approach.