A divorce clinic aimed at women from foreign cultures has been opened in Canberra. The new clinic will be run by the Women’s Legal Centre ACT and will provide free legal advice and representation to women from diverse cultures who face difficulties negotiating the Australian legal system.
With Legal Aid not available in divorce matters and the cost of private legal help a potential obstacle, the divorce clinic aims to offer women help and support in obtaining a divorce, and will include translator and interpreter services to assist with preparing legal documents like affidavits.
Women from some cultural backgrounds are known to experience high levels of domestic violence and often struggle to battle cultural stigma and to surmount practical hurdles such as language barriers or financial stress. They may need help when there are difficulties in providing a marriage certificate, sometimes lost due to having fled war-torn countries, or sometimes having never obtained one in the first place.
Often, a great deal of stigma is attached to women seeking divorce, and this can have safety implications. As such, the clinic will offer a “holistic approach” to legal services and include safety planning for women at risk.
Women’s Legal Centre ACT solicitor Allison Munro said divorce was often a crucial step to provide social and economic freedom needed for women to move on with their lives.
“We hope that addressing their legal problems in a safe, supportive and confidential environment will give these women the confidence to seek legal assistance in the future, should they need to do so.”