SAFETY and security upgrades at Ararat Magistrates’ Court are complete.
The courthouse closed from December 29 as part of upgrades to make the building more suitable for hearing family violence matters.
Sittings resumed on Monday this week.
Attorney-General Martin Pakula said the upgrade would help create a safer experience for family violence survivors attending court.
The project worth $490,000 included a new, secure waiting area and interview room for people impacted by family violence. The upgrades also included mobile screening in the courtroom to allow visual separation of parties.
There will be increased security at the registry area and entrance and trained security officers will be at the courthouse on sitting days to provide entry screening and roving security.
The toilets were also upgraded to improve access.
Mr Pakula said the safety and security upgrades were long-overdue with the building being largely unchanged since 1909.
“Private court facilities and a stronger security presence at the Ararat Courthouse will help create a safer experience for those attending court – particularly for people impacted by family violence,” he said.
Women's Health Grampians chief executive Marianne Hendron said family violence survivors had a right to access the court system safely, which they previously could not do in Ararat.
She said people were deterred to access that right when facilities were not up to standard.
Ms Hendron said family violence involved a power-play relationship.
She said the upgrades to the waiting area, interview rooms and mobile screening could help minimise the perpetrators ability to intimidate a survivor at court.
“The negative experience compounded with poor facilities and coming face-to-face with their perpetrator would likely deter them from wanting to attend,” she said.
“If they aren’t able to have appropriate facilities for consultation with their lawyers they aren’t even going to want to access that right.”
Ms Hendron said the upgrades were a step in the right direction.
“While our work is to prevent family violence in the first place, in the past we have worked with Stawell and Ararat victims. It was clear the facilities needed that upgrade,” she said.