Empathy and expertise helps law students with domestic violence victims

Parramatta courts

A program to improve the legal profession’s understanding of domestic violence to ensure lawyers are better equipped to assist people affected by violence has been honoured at an awards ceremony in Sydney.

Student Connect is an initiative of the University of Western Sydney and the South West Sydney Legal Centre designed to help the victims of domestic violence receive the best possible advice and assistance while they navigate legal processes.

The initiative was developed in response to the Legal Centre’s perception that many lawyers representing people in busy local court domestic violence lists have a poor understanding of the dynamics and impact of domestic violence.

The project is anchored in the UWS Criminal Law classes, and sees visiting legal professionals give presentations to the students, followed by visits to local courts on the days they deal with domestic violence.

By taking an early intervention approach and targeting law undergraduates, the Student Connect program helps ensure lawyers are more aware, sensitive and supportive of victims when they enter the legal profession.

Associate Professor Susan Armstrong, from the UWS School of Law, says research has found
significant changes in students’ attitudes about domestic violence when they finish the program.

“Research into the project has shown that following their participation, students are more aware of the dynamics and nature of domestic violence, and how to provide assistance to those affected,” says Associate Professor Armstrong.

“This is really important as lawyers are a crucial part of developing a systemic, collaborative and multi-sectoral approach to addressing domestic violence.”

In recognition of the program’s continued success in the community, Student Connect was recently awarded the Exceptional Community Partnership honour at the ZEST Awards, which celebrate the innovation and creativity of community organisations in Greater Western Sydney.

Student Connect is funded by Domestic and Family Violence Grants program in the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, and is an initiative the University of Western Sydney and the South West Sydney Legal Centre in partnership with Women’s Legal Service, Macarthur Community Legal Centre, local courts and the NSW Police.


17 March 2014

Contact: Mark Smith, Senior Media Officer