AUSTRALIA’S family violence epidemic has become the most salient public safety issue in the country.
First published in the 27 February edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Get your copy today from retailers across Baw Baw.
Victoria’s royal commission into family violence was launched on Monday with the aim of improving violence prevention, early intervention and support for victims, and perpetrator accountability.
The commission will hear from police, legal professionals and service providers on how to prevent family violence and better integrate systems.
The often quoted fact that one woman dies every week from domestic violence in Australia has doubled in the first seven weeks of 2015 — 14 women have died from incidents of family violence.
Baw Baw saw an increase from 157 reported family violence assaults between October 2012 and September 2013 to 226 cases in the October 2013 to September 2014 period. That is an increase of 69 reported offences — a 44 per cent growth in the community.
Leading Senior Constable Brendan Clarke told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen “we’ve certainly seen an increase of reporting, but overall it is estimated that around 50 per cent of family violence goes unreported across the board.”
“I have also seen personally an increase in family violence linked with the usage of [the drug] ice.”
Mr Clarke stated Victoria Police had a zero tolerance policy for family violence and police services have generally good and adequate powers to deal with cases.
“We’ve got good power to act, but we work in conjunction with service providers and the community because the community has to get on board as well,” Mr Clarke said.
Housing affordability has been a key bottleneck to safety for those facing violence within the home. A woman at high risk of being subject to domestic violence could have to wait up to two years for housing.
Women are often put up in motels which are pre-booked three months in advance by service providers due to a lack of affordable housing.
One support group women and children affected by family violence in Gippsland can contact is Quantum Support Services Inc, which has been in operation for three decades. Client Services Manager Tanya Nolan said “it is a lack of houses full stop” which has led to many of the problems women and their children face in escaping abuse.
“Family violence drives lots of other issues, such as homelessness and problems associated, like [poor] mental health,” she told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
Ms Nolan said she believed women in rural communities faced different challenges to women in suburban areas.
“In smaller communities people are likely to know each other and [some] might feel too embarrassed to step forward and to seek support,” she said.
“They may feel a great deal of shame attached to that.”
The remoteness of some regional communities may also mean victims need to drive further distances to access services.
Ms Nolan said family violence was something everyone must have a role in preventing.
“If you’re in a social situation and someone tells a joke that involves slapping their wife over the head if she doesn’t cook dinner properly, people should not tolerate that in the same way that people have changed their attitude around racist jokes,” she said.
“It needs to change. The acceptance and the silence around it being okay to be aggressive towards one’s partner needs to change and everybody can help with that in some way.”
If you or anyone you know is experiencing family violence you can call 1800 737 732 for family violence counselling.
Locals can contact Quantum Support Services on 1800 243 455.
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