Family Violence Lawyer, Mikala

One women dies a week as a result of family violence. It does not discriminate, it can happen to any race, age and within any socio-economic group. We hear from Mikala McIntyre, Lawyer with Barwon Community Legal Service. ‘We provide free legal advice on a range of legal issues and regularly assist people affected by Family Violence.

Mikala Community Lawyer

‘Family Violence has become more talked about thanks to Rosie Batty and the subsequent Royal Commission. Research tells us a major contributing factor is gender inequality and rigid stereotypes. Schools are covering respectful relationships which is a great move. We, however, are at the pointy end.

‘I find what I do so necessary and, in a way, rewarding, as we are helping clients through a very difficult time of their lives. I’ve been working in this area for 5 years and find sport and spending time with family a good work/life balance.

‘Domestic Violence can affect any member of a family, however the majority of the time it is women and children who are affected. The message is getting out there that it is not just physical violence but can be social and/or emotional abuse. It might come in the form of someone controlling finances, not letting the person practise their chosen religion or mix with their family.

‘We have people referred to us from Court, the Police, Council and agencies such as Bethany, Minerva Services, Barwon CASA and Victoria Legal Aid. We also get people who walk in off the street. Our new address is Level 1, 63 Thomson Street Belmont VIC 3216 Phone: 1300 430 599

‘Funding comes from the Federal and State levels as well as other sources. We appreciate the funding we received from Give Where You Live. We’ve also recently gained funding to link Social Work Programs to Family Violence victims.

‘Court is a very chaotic place but over the last year there has been some good structural changes to make the process less confronting. Clients feel like they are being heard and the big picture is taken into account.

‘I moved to Geelong to study Law at Deakin University. It was during my final year I took up a one day a week placement with Barwon Community Legal Service. At the time, I didn’t know a lot about this area of law but soon found it became my passion.

‘I’ve just started my Masters in Human Rights as I enjoy the policy advocacy side of my work. As Community Lawyers we are involved in 3 areas, case work, law reform and community development and education. 2 days a week I work as a Family Violence Project worker. I’m also working with a great working group on projects for the Barwon Month of Action. I’ve also delivered information session to groups of educators recently.

‘I also really enjoy mentoring our student volunteers. I work with students over three days of the week. They come to us as I did 6 years ago and also when completing the month of Professional Placement training at the end of their course. You can tell the keen ones as they keep coming back. It’s a win win situation as we gain extra help and we can provide them with practical experience and references.

‘Hopefully through education and an increased awareness, due to programs like Victoria Against Violence and Barwon Month of Action including Reclaim the Night, our services won’t continue to be in such a high demand.’

Photo: Phil Hines Photography

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