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ACT Legal Aid boosts domestic violence support services to meet surge in demand

Legal Aid ACT will continue to ramp up its domestic violence services to meet "unprecedented" demand from Canberra victims.  

Chief executive John Boersig​ said the deaths of four Canberrans due to alleged domestic and family abuse in the past three months were "alarming" and a serious call to action.

Mr Boersig said the commission had provided legal advice to about 600 Canberrans, or more than 37 a week, in domestic violence matters so far this year.

Lawyers in its specialised  domestic violence unit have also experienced a 29 per cent increase in requests for help in the past three years.

"This is happening and it's quite a disease and quite prevalent across society.

"The people we're giving advice to range across ages and socioeconomic status."


The service already prioritised domestic violence matters and had employed extra legal staff in its specialised unit to cope with the huge surge in demand.

However, Mr Boersig this week said "unprecedented levels of demand" had prompted the organisation to make a stronger commitment to provide services for family and domestic violence matters.

"Whilst it is heartening to know that more people are accessing our services over the past few years, it is also disconcerting to realise that the problems of domestic and family violence remain so prevalent. 

"Whilst ever this is the case, it is crucial that victims in this situation receive appropriate legal assistance." 

The organisation had put on an extra lawyer in its domestic violence and protection order unit, which is based at the ACT Magistrates Court.

"It is important that those who are experiencing abuse receive support and assistance both legal and otherwise," Mr Boersig said.

"We have an adversarial system, and it is important that those who seek orders receive proper and timely advice and assistance in the court processes, which are often confronting and intimidating."

Mr Boersig said the commission also hoped to tackle the problem of violence with community through legal education, preventive education and support programs that targeted perpetrators.

He said helping a victim with their court matters should be one aspect of a holistic response to violence in the community.

Daniela D'Addario​  last week became the fourth Canberran to die as a result of alleged domestic violence this year. 

It comes as Canberra's police, courts, community legal organisations and crisis services field a skyrocketing number of calls for help from domestic violence victims. 

Last month, the ACT's Women's Legal Centre called for extra funding so it could hire a new lawyer to respond to "overwhelming" demand for domestic and family violence services. 

If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000.