VWCCS does not operate under the umbrella of any organisation. Our independence allows us the flexibility to give court support and assistance to clients involved in criminal hearings held under the State jurisdiction of the Local, District, Supreme, Children’s and Coroners’ Courts of New South Wales, and in some instances other States in Australia, as well as criminal matters held under the Commonwealth jurisdiction. The ability to work in State and Commonwealth jurisdictions makes VWCCS a unique court support agency for victims and witnesses of crime.
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VWCCS's Aims and Objectives
The principal objectives of VWCCS are to provide:
- A unique, high standard and non-judgmental court support service for its clients: victims and witnesses of crime, their family members and close friends in both State and Commonwealth criminal matters.
- A unique and high standard court support service providing continuity by extending its service to cover clients whose matters begin in the Children’s or Local Courts of New South Wales and which later may progress to a higher Court.
- A unique and high standard court support service which does not duplicate any other court support service operating in the New South Wales and Commonwealth criminal jurisdictions, but supplements such services when required.
- A unique and high standard court support service which remains independent and self‐funded in order to provide a service for victims and witnesses of crime which is not prejudiced and/or limited by budgets or various organisational sanctions and policies.
Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC Governor of New South Wales
VWCCS became incorporated in March 2008 and is governed by an Incorporation Committee.
The roles and responsibilities of the VWCCS Incorporation Committee are the approval of policy, oversight and approval of regular reporting and annual accountability requirements, oversight of the management structure and assisting the CEO in the identification of sources of funding.
The VWCCS Operational Management Group oversees and makes decisions about day-to-day operational issues within VWCCS.
- In 2014, VWCCS Parramatta team were awarded the 2014 Volunteer Team of the Year award for the Sydney Mid West region.
- In 2013, VWCCS was a finalist in the NSW Volunteer of the Year Award and a finalist in the 2013 Law and Justice Awards.
- Ms Pieta Thornton was awarded the Sydney City/East Individual Volunteer of the Year Award as part of the 2013 Volunteer of the Year Award sponsored by the NSW Centre for Volunteering.
- In addition Ms Pieta Thornton was awarded an Order of Australia Medal as part of the 2014 Australia Day Honours.
- In 2020 Newcastle VWCCS was selected as Volunteer Team of the Year for Newcastle and the Hunter Region at the Centre for Volunteering Award Ceremony
VWCCS has been operating as an independent agency since it began in 2006 under the directorship of Pieta Thornton.
VWCCS’ establishment resulted from Pieta’s shared vision with her co-founders, Alese Boville and Peter Thornton. The envisaged service would be unique as it would locate its highly trained volunteers in an office within the courthouse when cases were being assigned – rather than arranging attendance via appointment for specific cases.
We started with a room at the Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre and commenced court support services commenced at Bidura Childrens Court under very modest circumstances. With the permission of the Bidura Magistrate and Registrar, Pieta and Alese (the sole two Court Support Officers) were located in a tiny office furnished with a borrowed desk and second-hand chairs. A small computer and printer were purchased and as no phone line was available, their personal mobiles provided phone access to the service. The small sitting room was given a major upgrade courtesy of a council clean-up, which provided a lounge and a coffee table.
The service was enthusiastically adopted as an integral part of assistance to victims and witnesses within the court complex and it soon became apparent that additional volunteers would be required to manage the scale of referrals.
The first Induction and Training Program for 6 volunteers was held in 2007 at Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre which had auspiced the establishment of VWCCS.
Our first Legal Officer, the late Peter Thornton (then Senior Partner of Ebsworth & Ebsworth (as it was then known)) was instrumental and invaluable in setting up the legal requirements of VWCCS, including: attending meetings with North Sydney Council to lend credence to the importance of setting up such an organisation as VWCCS and requesting North Sydney Council auspice it in order to arrange its first office at the Kirribilli Neighbourhood Centre which was successful; inviting the late Hon Jerrold Cripps QC, former Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court, as VWCCS’ first Patron; attending various management meetings, organising insurance, and setting up VWCCS’ Incorporation.
- In 2007 the first Induction and Training Program was held. Most of these volunteers are still with us today. We then made submissions to the Downing Centre, were allocated a room and offered our services initially for three days a week, expanding to five days a week by the end of 2007.
- In 2009, we conducted a further Induction and Training Program so that we could begin our service at the Parramatta Local and Parramatta Children’s court.
- In 2010, we established a dedicated area in the Downing Centre called the Police Witness Meeting Area so that our clients would have a private place to meet with us and the Police. At each of the courts in which we operate, we have a room where we can meet our clients in private so that they do not have to come into contact with the accused and have a quiet place for their court preparation.
- In 2015 we expanded to Parramatta District Court.
- In June 2021 VWCCS suspended operations due to the closure of courts as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. However, by February 2022 VWCCS was able to recommence limited court support and returned to full service after Easter of 2022.
- In December 2021 VWCCS celebrated its 15th Birthday at a celebration hosted by Her Excellency, the Honourable Margaret Beazley, AC, KC, Governor of NSW at NSW Government House.
At that celebration, the Founder and President of VWCCS, Pieta Thornton OAM announced her retirement.
- In 2022 Graeme Henson AM, took up the role of Chairman of the VWCCS Incorporation Committee following his retirement as Chief Magistrate of NSW.
- Training of a new cohort of Court Support Officers (CSOs) commenced in May 2021 but was significantly interrupted and delayed by the Covid shut downs. The new recruits were subsequently able to undertake the work experience and mentoring phases of their training and commenced their new roles in the later-half of 2022. This took the total number of VWCCS volunteers to 103.
- Other changes in 2022 included the retirement of our former patrons Professor Gordian Fulde AO and Professor Caroline Taylor AM in March 2022. In April 2022 VWCCS was very pleased to announce that Her Excellency, the Honourable Margaret Beazley, AC, KC, Governor of NSW had accepted the position of patron for VWCCS.
Twenty-nine new VWCCS Court Support Officers (CSOs) have commenced in the Sydney, Parramatta and Newcastle Courts, taking the total number of VWCCS volunteers to just over 100. The new recruits commenced their training in May 2021. The training was discontinued during...
The Centre for Volunteering has announced that VWCCS Newcastle has been selected as the 2020 Hunter Region Volunteer Team of the Year. The dedicated team of volunteers has provided invaluable emotional and practical support for people in extremely traumatic and...
This service for victims and witnesses of crime is available for Local and District Court matters at Newcastle Court House. The extension of VWCCS’ network to include Newcastle was greatly assisted by the support of the NSW Attorney General, Mark Speakman.
A service that helps victims and witnesses of crime prepare for court will be rolled out in Newcastle, Attorney General Mark Speakman and Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald announced today.