Tonga is the first Pacific nation to have a legal aid centre providing free services for survivors of domestic violence.
The Family Protection Legal Aid Centre opens today in Nuku'alofa and was established by the local Ministry of Justice and will operate within the Ministry's compound.
The Ministry's assistant secretary, 'Aunofo Aholelei, said the centre was a response to gaps found by key stakeholders of the Family Protection Act 2013.
Ms Aholelei said there had been no free legal services on offer to assist victims of domestic violence and there was a lack of services available for those living in the outer islands.
She said the centre was a way forward in addressing those gaps.
"The objective of the project is that survivors of domestic violence have increased access to justice for domestic violence and other family protection matters and the Ministry noted that this objective was direct aligned with the Ministry's mandate," Ms Aholelei said.
The Tongatapu-based centre will also provide an after-hours telephone service to those living in the outer islands.
The centre's legal officer, Fitilagi Fa'anunu, said as well as providing the legal advice and representation, her team would also be able to make referrals for clients who may need urgent medical assistance.
"The centre is a major step forward by the government to respond to address the issue of domestic violence and this will no doubt will empower those who are most vulnerable, to have increase access to the justice system," Ms Fa'anunu said.
She said in order to be eligible for the free legal service, someone must be a survivor or victim of domestic violence as defined under the Family Protection Act 2013.