Family violence is deeply traumatic for the people and families involved, and has consequences for the justice, health, housing, education and corrections systems. It is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children and can contribute to poorer physical and mental health, unemployment, poverty and other disadvantage. It is the biggest contributor to ill health, disability and death in Victorian women aged 15-44.
Alongside increased political, community, media and police focus on violence against women and children, there has been a dramatic increase in family violence reports.
Police and family violence services are now facing overwhelming demand. As more women and children experiencing violence in the home come forward, early identification, risk assessment, appropriate referral and effective responses play a crucial role in helping them find safety and stay safe. A wide range of reforms and expansion of capacity across the whole social sector is needed to meet this demand and combat family violence.
Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence is now underway in Victoria. The Royal Commission was established in February 2015 and is due to deliver its report and recommendations by 29 February 2016. The Royal Commission is focusing on finding practical ways to protect those at risk, prevent family violence and improve integration and coordination of response efforts across the sector.
Closing date for submissions to the Royal Commission is 29 May 2015. VCOSS is currently consulting with community sector organisations to inform the VCOSS submission. The VCOSS submission to the Royal Commission will examine the role and capacity of community organisations across the social services spectrum in preventing and responding to family violence and how to enable community organisations to work collaboratively with each other and with the health, housing, education, justice and related systems.
VCOSS members and other stakeholders who would like to provide input are encouraged to contact Brooke on firstname.lastname@example.org or 9235 1020.
In our 2015-16 state budget submission, Building a Victoria without Poverty, we have identified four priorities for preventing family violence and improving responses for people who have experienced violence.
Put family violence commitments into action
The 2015-16 state budget is a chance for the government to fund the family violence package it promised in the lead-up to the 2014 state election. This range of policies, some of which have already been delivered, includes:
- Establishing a dedicated Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and relocating the Office of Women’s Affairs to the Department of Premier and Cabinet to support a whole-of-government approach
- Establishing Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence
- Re-establishing the Family Violence Death Review in the Coroner’s Court
- Providing urgent funding for a range of services to support women and children, including $2.5million for services that are currently experiencing extraordinary demand and delays (such as crisis accommodation)
- Holding perpetrators accountable, including $500,000 to reduce waiting lists for men’s behaviour change programs.
Support family violence survivors throughout the Royal Commission process
The state government can support people with lived experience of family violence who tell their story to the Royal Commission by ensuring a range of counselling and support services are available to help them throughout the process.
Hearing the voices of family violence survivors will help us to understand the causes, barriers to speaking out and the challenges in navigating complex systems that need to be overcome to prevent family violence occurring.
The Royal Commission has commenced community consultations with victims/survivors and service providers, being held between 21 April 2015 and 22 May 2015 in Melbourne and regional Victoria. Details of the consultations times and locations have not been published, but people can register their interest in attending by calling the Royal Commission on 1800 365 100 or sending an email to email@example.com.
Develop and deliver a comprehensive primary prevention program
Evidence has shown that the key determinants of violence against women are support for gender inequality and rigid gender roles. Communities which value women’s participation and representation and where there are fewer economic, social and political differences between men and women have significantly lower levels of intimate partner and sexual violence.
The Victorian government can further combat the attitudes and gender inequality under which violence against women and children is excused or minimised by delivering a primary prevention plan that targets individuals, communities, organisations and broader society.
Deliver the Workforce development program on gender and disability
Women with disabilities experience higher levels of violence than other women. The state government can help women with disabilities feel confident in reporting violence and seeking assistance by extending the pilot funding of the workforce development program on gender and disabilities.
The program is a training package aimed at improving the quality of gender sensitive practice among disability service managers and workers. It is co-facilitated by women with disabilities, working alongside trainers with expertise in violence prevention and response.
The full list of priorities for preventing family violence can be read in the 2015-16 VCOSS state budget submission: Building a Victoria without poverty.