Female patients experiencing domestic and family violence (DFV) now have access to free, on-site family law, domestic violence and child protection legal advice at QEII Hospital.
Women’s Legal Service Queensland (WLSQ) Solicitor Adele Bentham said the service would save lives.
“It is incredibly dangerous for women experiencing domestic and family violence to seek legal advice and get the help they need to leave that situation safely,” she said.
“On average at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia.
“Research shows that these women are more likely to tell a health professional first, so it is critical to have a support system in place in hospitals so we can offer advice and options before it is too late.”
The Health Justice Partnership between Metro South Health and WLSQ enables staff to refer patients for legal advice and support including advice on how to get a protection order.
Ms Bentham, who left private practice to join WLSQ, said she was proud to support QEII patients and healthcare professionals.
“I see the importance of this service to our community,” she said.
“We’re providing women with the information and guidance they need, while also educating and supporting QEII staff about how to respond and handle what is often incredibly difficult situations, which sometimes also involve the police and complex legal documents.”
QEII Director of Social Worker Alana Cowan said last financial year QEII recorded 143 presentations of domestic violence related to spouse or partner episodes, equalling almost one every two days.
“We know that this figure underestimates the true number of patients affected by domestic and family violence presenting at QEII,” she said.
“The experience of domestic and family violence can have serious impacts on a person’s physical, psychological and emotional health at a personal level, and is an issue that needs urgent attention at all levels of our community.
“This month in Australia, eight women were killed in 10 days by a current or former partner.
“We are committed to improving our response to the needs of all patients who have experienced any form of domestic and/or family violence and the presence of WLSQ at QEII will help towards this.”
The service is funded by the Federal Government as part of the Women’s Safety Package and is offered across Metro South Health hospitals.