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There’s a dog in the (court) house!

Families engaged in Court proceedings often experience a variety of stressors that can be exacerbated in the legal setting.  In response, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) has launched the Court Dog Program in Melbourne.  Therapy Dog Poppy, a fully trained court facility dog from Guide Dogs Victoria, commenced full time work with the Courts from 4 October 2023 by assisting litigants and children who are involved in family law proceedings in the Courts’ Melbourne registry, thanks to the support and generosity of the Victorian Bar and the Victorian Bar Foundation.

The Chief Justice of the FCFCOA the Hon Will Alstergren said: “this is the first time that a therapy or facility dog has been used in Australian federal courts, and backed by behavioural science and the experiences of courts all around the world, the benefits to litigants will be significant…[Poppy] can provide support to people experiencing stress and offer a positive and calming distraction to an overwhelming situation….” In promising news for those attending the Newcastle registry of the Court, His Honour the Chief Justice reported “The Hobart registry is preparing for Court Dog Zoey to commence later in the year, and I hope that we can secure funding in the future to allow these programs to be extended nationally.”  So it is with bated breath that we wait to see when Newcastle might receive its own Court Dog!

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