Week 8, Semester 2
By Anastasia Scarfo
Family violence – there is a lot of talk about, but for some of us, violence in our homes or relationships is more than a distant concept. It has not occurred to many of us that our friends and colleagues at this very law school might be suffering from something greater than exam stress, clerkships anxiety and peer group troubles. Don’t get me wrong – those things are serious issues and we have all been there! But some may find themselves at the Queensberry one night and after a pint (or two, or three or more) a friend reveals more than they planned, and it just doesn’t sound right. Because it’s not!
According to the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic), family violence is behaviour that creates fear and control over a partner, ex-partner or other family member. Behaviour can include:
Statutory interpretation aside, family violence can be a debilitating experience which emotionally paralyses an individual, injuring both their body and mind. And, just as easily, it can injure their academic performance, self-esteem and ability to learn and comprehend new material.
Perhaps the Later Law Students’ Network (LLSN) have had way too many pints or heard way too many stories, but we decided to take action. Last year’s committee led by the LLSN president Laura Blandthorn conducted a survey of 235 University of Melbourne students. When asked if family violence was grounds for special consideration at the University of Melbourne, 90% of students surveyed said “No” or “I do not know”.
We took this to the law school, and MLS updated the information it gives to students via the Procedures and Guidelines website by adding family violence to the list of circumstances for which students may be eligible for special consideration or extensions.
This year we have been working hard and thanks to our advocacy, the support of the LSS Equality portfolio and Judith Marychurch, you can find pamphlets around the law building setting out what you need to know about eligibility for those experiencing abuse.
What does it mean? It means that if you or your friends are going through a tough time because of family violence – don’t just get on with it! There are many ways to break the cycle and special consideration is just one step in help you to manage a difficult situation.
The amendments to MLS Procedures and Guidelines provide clear guidance for students
whose studies are affected by family violence. Learn more about your eligibility by visiting MLS Procedures and Guidelines page: http://go.unimelb.edu.au/sev6
If you're unsure about what forms of assessment you can make an application
for or have other questions, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
And we are not planning to stop there. We are now working with the GSA and it is our goal to take this challenge to the University of Melbourne central administration in order to amend the information provided by the university and raise awareness amongst students about family violence and their eligibility for special consideration.