For people going through the Family Court system, the process of attending court can be incredibly intimidating, and a friendly face to assist with referral pathways can be important.
The Victorian Family Law Pathways Network (VFLPN) is an initiative of the Australian Government Attorney General’s Department, which assists litigants by identifying referral pathways for separating families caught in the family law system.
Separating families, and the professionals supporting them, can find the best family law support services for them through the VFLPN Information & Referral Kiosks.
The VFLPN Information & Referral Kiosks are located at the Melbourne and Dandenong Commonwealth Law Courts, and are attended by volunteers most Monday to Thursday mornings. Our volunteers are a friendly face for self-represented litigants who may need that extra support, and can help them find where they need to go, liaise with lawyers and court officers, explain court procedures and refer clients to appropriate services by using the iRefer Vic app.
The iRefer Vic app is a free resource for clients and professionals offering instant and 24/7 access to information about family law support services.
Volunteers use the iRefer Vic app when assisting clients and lawyers in court to find an appropriate service in Victoria for their situation, and can even make bookings on behalf of clients.
Thea is one of the Volunteer Mentors at the VFLPN Kiosks, supporting litigants at the Commonwealth Law courts. On a typical day at the court, Thea assists litigants by helping them to find their court rooms and fields general enquiries. She interacts and liaises with the Judges Associates on behalf of clients, and assists interpreters to find their clients and courtrooms. Thea is also equipped to identify when a self-represented litigant may benefit from in-court or external services, and will make appropriate referrals. An example of this is where Thea would make a referral for a client experiencing family violence to the Family Advocacy Support Services at court who can appropriately assist the client.
Navigating the family law system can be a confusing and emotional process - “the family court environment is really stressful,” says Thea. “Being able to help litigants feel more supported in their situation is invaluable”.
Our Volunteers work to identify issues that a litigant may be experiencing, and find the right service for them. This can include services that assist with safety planning, financial assistance, and counselling. One of the most useful features for Thea when using the iRefer Vic app is the map function – “lots of family law clients have issues travelling or finding a service that is easy to get to. Finding appropriate services which are close to them and easily accessible is vital. This is a big issue with access to services, and the iRefer Vic app helps to make the referral process easier and more effective”. Volunteers like Thea make referrals to all kinds of support services, such as to counselling, child contact centres and family dispute resolution services.
Sometimes, this interaction with Kiosk Volunteers is the first time litigants actually become aware of the myriad of support services available to them. The role our volunteers play is integral to providing litigants with support and direction to appropriate services. “It’s important not to underestimate the impact a volunteer can have! Volunteering at the VFLPN Information & Referral Kiosk helps to fill a gap in the court situation that so many litigants are prone to fall into”.
More about the iRefer Vic app
The iRefer Vic app provides detailed information about services, including wait times and mapping capability to determine the right service for litigants.
The app enables users to identify a service by scrolling through categories or by searching a relevant keyword. Each category/keyword will return a list of agencies and service providers. Users are able to select one and use the information provided to contact their chosen service or program.
Some of the categories available in the app include Indigenous Australian Services, Property Dispute Services, Children’s Contact Services, Counselling Services, Financial Assistance Services, Parent Education Programs, and many more.
The map function allows users to see how far away the service is from where the client works or lives. It also provides information about the closest public transport options, and links to detailed directions.
The iRefer Vic App can be downloaded on both Apple and Android devices.
The VFLPN has an annual volunteer intake early on in the year.