What is LACW all about?

  • The Law and Advocacy Centre for Women (LACW) is a not-for-profit legal practice with a holistic, client-focused approach. We are based in Melbourne.
  • We provide our services free of charge for the majority of clients, and offer flexibility in payment options for those that are able to make a contribution. Please contact us (link) to discuss our eligibility criteria.

Why have a criminal legal service for women?

  • Women are the fastest growing demographic in Victoria’s prison population.
  • Women are the highest represented demographic in poverty indicators.
  • Women are at greatest risk of becoming impoverished due to their occupation of identified risk groups for poverty (for example, sole parents).
  • Before LACW there was no specialised service for women in Victoria dealing with criminal matters.
  • Many women share common pathways to offending. A specialised service for women that understands and addresses those issues is better placed to interrupt the narrative that sees these women enter and re-enter the criminal justice system.

What’s different about LACW?

  • We provide a thorough assessment as part of our intake process that identifies both legal and non-legal needs.
  • We provide intensive case management and on-site complementary services, such as counselling and housing support, to ensure that clients’ needs are met.
  • We have close relationships with other allied service providers including arrangements for visiting professionals to assist our clients.
  • We are free to those who cannot pay and for those at greatest risk of harm due to domestic violence, homelessness or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status.

Who benefits from LACW’s work?

  • Women in the criminal justice system, or at risk of entering the criminal justice system, by providing a holistic service that seeks to divert them from further contact with the criminal justice system.
  • The children of these women by combating the instability and family breakdown that occurs as a result of incarceration and ongoing contact with the criminal justice system.
  • The community as a whole by addressing the underlying causes of offending for clients, thus diverting women from the costly prison system and from further contact with the criminal justice system.

What happens when a new client approaches or is referred to LACW?

  • As part of the intake process, the legal and non-legal needs of each client will be thoroughly assessed, and the areas of greatest need prioritised.
  • A client care team will be assembled, comprising a solicitor, case-manager and other therapeutic support providers depending on the client’s needs.
  • From the outset, LACW will endeavour to address the legal needs of the client, and the reasons underlying those issues.

Is LACW a free service?

  • LACW is a not-for-profit legal practice.
  • We will assess each client according to their means.
  • In the majority of cases, there will be no fee.
  • Where a client has the capacity to make a payment, these will be at affordable rates.

What’s the difference between LACW and the Women’s Legal Service Victoria?

  • The Law and Advocacy Centre for Women provides specialised advocacy and representation for women in or at risk of entering the criminal justice system, along-side holistic case management.
  • The Women’s Legal Service (WLS) in Victoria provides women with specialised legal assistance in family and some related civil law areas. WLS does not provide representation in criminal law matters or assistance with infringements or debt matters which form the core of LACW’s work.
  • Where women have intervention order or VOCAT matters in addition to their cases with LACW, principles of holistic case management suggest these should also be managed in-house. In other cases, it may be more appropriate for LACW to refer to the Women’s Legal Service (WLS) or Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service (AFVPLS).