Bond law students take on domestic violence

22 August 2016

A new initiative designed to prepare aspiring lawyers to handle domestic violence cases has been established in a joint partnership between Bond University and the Domestic Violence Court in Southport, Queensland’s first and only dedicated domestic and family violence court.

Bond law students take on domestic violence
(L-R) Katrina Ukmar, The Hon Magistrate Colin Strofield, Paula Bould, and Tess Lehn (Photo: Bond University)

The program aims to give five law students supervised exposure to the complex legal field of domestic violence, shadowing Magistrate Colin Strofield in his role as one of the presiding magistrates of the Domestic Violence Court and working with the dedicated Domestic Violence Registry.
Bond University’s Assistant Professor of Law, Jodie O’Leary, who coordinates the Domestic Violence Court Clinic program alongside Assistant Professor Elizabeth Greene, said the initiative was a response to the ‘Not Now, Not Ever’ report into domestic and family violence, headed by Dame Quentin Bryce.
“One of the issues highlighted in the ‘Not Now, Not Ever’ report was the need for universities to identify suitable ways to incorporate education and training around domestic violence prevention into undergraduate courses,” said Assistant Professor O’Leary.
“We see the Domestic Violence Court Clinic as a way we can implement those findings, while also giving our students valuable real-world experience to prepare them for legal practice.
“Magistrate Strofield and the Registry staff are highly experienced in this field and their investment in our students is truly invaluable.”
Magistrate Strofield said eliminating domestic and family violence required a coordinated response over an extensive period of time.
“Partnerships between universities and key stakeholders will prove invaluable as the commitment to change continues,” said Magistrate Strofield.
“The definition of domestic violence is varied and often misunderstood.
“Educating students in the definition of domestic and family violence and best practices is a key component for change in the future.
“I’m optimistic that this opportunity to observe the practical application of legal studies together with gaining the perspective of aggrieved and responding parties of domestic violence will assist and inspire students in their future careers in legal practice.”
Domestic Violence Court deputy registrar Paula Bould said the program would provide the students with the unique opportunity to observe and participate in the process of trialing a specialist domestic and family violence court, the first of its kind in Queensland.
“Students will observe firsthand the daily operations of court proceedings both of a civil and criminal nature varying from the initial application stage, to contested trials to criminal charges arising from a contravention of an order,” said Mrs Bould.
The students—Nakisa Djamshidi, Tess Lehn, Katrina Ukmar, Chelsea McClatchy and Melissa Bate—will each spend one day per week in the Court with Magistrate Strofield, as well as working in the Registry.
Final-year Juris Doctor student Tess Lehn, 24, said it had been eye opening to be part of such an important program.
“I have learnt so much seeing what the Magistrate deals with on a daily basis,” she said.
“Magistrate Strofield takes a real interest in the people that come before the court and making sure they realise the seriousness of domestic violence and the importance of not reoffending.
“Spending time in the registry has also been an invaluable experience and it has been great to work alongside the staff who are specially trained and passionate about what they do.”
Tess is planning to work in family law when she graduates from Bond Law School this year.
Third-year Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Psychological Science student Katrina Ukmar, 21, said she and her fellow students were very fortunate to have such access to the courtroom and its workings.
“These cases are often heard in a closed court, so to be able to have access to the courtroom and the Magistrate is something you would never usually get to experience as a law student,” she said.
“I don’t think the community understands just how widespread domestic violence is in today’s society. It’s been amazing to see the great work that is happening, and steps that are being taken to address this important issue.”
Katrina would like to work in criminal law when she graduates from Bond at the end of 2017.
“Having a dual degree in Law and Psychological Sciences will help me to better understand people, and why they do what they do, so that ultimately I can devise better rehabilitative strategies and holistic solutions to address criminal law issues,” she said.
Assistant Professor O’Leary said the students would be able to see, in practice, legal practitioners dedicated to confronting the issue and amending procedure to make it easier for the system to better protect victims of domestic violence.
“In preparation for the five-week program, the students have been briefed by clinical and forensic psychologist Dr Deborah Wilmoth, Director of the Bond University Psychology Clinic, about the confronting nature of some of the matters they will be exposed to,” said Assistant Professor O’Leary.
“Elizabeth Greene and I have also taken the students through a legal briefing that specifically addressed the Domestic Violence Court and the law to which they would be exposed.
“The five students were selected from a strong field of applicants, and the early feedback from the Deputy Registrar is that they are exceptional young ladies.”

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The Bond JD was constructed to enable graduates to take leading positions in the public and private sectors. Bond graduates are now employed in top law firms throughout Australia and across 38 countries, including the United States, U.K., Canada, Malaysia and Singapore, as solicitors in private practice, barristers, government lawyers, in-house counsel and academics. Students are encouraged to emphasize specific areas of study that they feel will best serve their proposed career paths.
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