Safe and Equal provides expert commentary on issues related to domestic and family violence in the Victorian context.
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- Media Releases
This section includes media releases of Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) prior to the merge to form Safe and Equal.
Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV), the peak body for specialist family violence services in Victoria, welcomes yesterday’s announcement of the Victorian State Budget for 2021-22. We are pleased to see ongoing commitment to addressing family violence feature in the budget, with an overall investment of $354 million.
Tania Farha, CEO of DV Vic and DVRCV said, “Rates of family violence in our community are increasing year on year. While we unreservedly welcome the funds committed by the government to family violence responses in this budget, we know that this level of funding does not meet the level of need in the community.”
The specialist family violence sector is emerging from a major period of reform off the back of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, while also recovering from the unprecedented disruptions and challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. We thank the Victorian Government for its ongoing commitment to addressing family violence, and particularly welcome this budget’s additional funding for support services for victim-survivors ($49 million over four years).
The investment outlined in yesterday’s budget announcement includes:
- Continuation of funding of the Central Information Point ($12.9 million) which provides comprehensive information to family violence practitioners in The Orange Door to ensure the safety of victim-survivors. We look forward to working with government to ensure The Orange Door will be fully integrated with the broader systemic response to family violence and access to this crucial risk management platform is extended to include the entire specialist family violence service sector.
- Ongoing funding ($97 million over four years) for the implementation of the multi-agency risk assessment and management framework (MARAM) and information sharing schemes to support workforces to develop more comprehensive policies and practices for responding to family violence. Significant resourcing will be required to support the newly mandated workforces (totalling an estimated 370,000 individual workers across a range of service areas) to implement these crucial reforms. We hope that this work will continue to be informed by specialist family violence practice.
- Specific initiatives focused on Aboriginal communities including the establishment of an Aboriginal refuge in Horsham, after hours family violence support and legal assistance to meet the needs of Aboriginal communities.
- Investment in family violence early intervention, and responses to children and young people impacted by family violence. This includes the welcomed state-wide expansion of therapeutic services for adolescents who use violence in the home. There is a critical need for concurrent investment in the development of a state-wide coordinated crisis response to adolescent family violence, which is currently lacking.
- Increased investment in perpetrator accountability ($18.1 million).
- $1.2 million investment (over two years) in the Family Violence Graduate Program that will support 80 new graduates to receive training and on-the-job support while working to become specialists in family violence services. This initiative delivers on the promised investment in the last budget for creating pathways to employment for young people to transition into specialist family violence positions.
- Investment to strengthen justice system responses to family violence. This will include additional funding to expand the network of specialist family violence courts and to increase early access to legal advice for victim-survivors will help promote safer legal outcomes for victim-survivors.
- Investment in the victim service system. We look forward to receiving more detail about how this will contribute to increasing access to the support services and financial assistance essential for victim-survivors to rebuild their lives and recover.
- Investment of $2.4 million over two years to develop tools and resources for addressing drivers of sexual violence in young people, as well as resourcing for youth-focused programs that promote healthy relationships and greater community understanding. We welcome the $2.3 million investment to continue delivering initiatives that promote gender equality and respectful relationships among young people and address the drivers of sexual and family violence. Continued investment in strengthening broader understanding of the drivers of family violence and gendered violence is critical to support sustainable, long-term social change.
- Additional funding to support women’s health services across the state. This funding will continue to build the capacity of regional infrastructure to strengthen sector-wide collaboration and primary prevention deliverables.
- Investment to support the establishment of a new gender responsive budgeting unit. Deliberately applying a gender lens to assess the overall gendered reach and impact of the Victorian State Budget is essential to advancing gender equality and ending family violence in our community.
We look forward to receiving further details about how this money will be spread across the many areas of work required for a safe and coordinated response to victim-survivors of family violence and concerted effort to prevent this violence before it occurs.
The only way to stem the unacceptable rates of family violence in our community is to stop it from happening in the first place. There is still much more to be done including the much-needed additional investment in prevention and the prevention workforce, as well the longstanding need to increase funding for specialist family violence response services.
DVVic and DVRCV are committed to continue our work with the Victorian Government to ensure funding is committed in 2022-23 and beyond for prevention and adequate and sustainable funding for the essential services working to support the safety and wellbeing of victim-survivors and ending family violence across our community.
Coercive control is one of the most complex and urgent social issues impacting communities across Australia, and victim survivors clearly need improved responses from the system and the community. Coercive control has always been recognized by the specialist family violence sector as a defining feature of family violence that significantly impacts on the safety and wellbeing of all victim-survivors. Safe and just outcomes for victim survivors requires a whole of systems and community response – where everyone has a shared understanding of what coercive control is and looks like, and how to assess and manage associated risks. Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre (DVRCV), the peak body for specialist family violence services in Victoria, welcomes the growing public conversation about how best to achieve this.
DV Vic and DVRCV CEO Tania Farha states “A new law is not where we should be starting in Victoria, where there is already recognition of coercive control in our legislation. The focus needs to be on improving how existing laws are applied.”
DV Vic and DVRCV have released a position paper that identifies immediate actions that can be taken to improve understanding of and response to coercive control across the broader family violence system. This must start with a shared understanding of coercive control across all systems, services and agencies responding to family violence, that recognises coercive control as a pattern of abusive behaviours and tactics used by a perpetrator to gain power and control over a victim survivor.
While the justice system (civil and criminal) forms part of the systemic response to family violence, DV Vic and DVRCV would not support the introduction of a new offence to criminalise coercive control in Victoria at this stage. It is the peak’s view that criminalisation of coercive control is unlikely to result in safer outcomes for victim survivors or increase perpetrator accountability, while at the same time it may increase risk for those most vulnerable and marginalised victim survivors in the community.
“The criminal justice system’s current response to family violence is inconsistent. We need to look at the whole picture and ensure that we don’t lose sight of victim survivors who for many reasons do not engage with police or the courts,” says Tania Farha.
The peak is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this critical discussion and remains committed to ongoing consideration of the emerging evidence and engagement with the many valid perspectives and viewpoints expressed in this most critical conversation.
The three peak bodies for specialist services responding to family violence and sexual assault in Victoria – Domestic Violence Victoria and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, No to Violence, and Sexual Assault Services Victoria – call on the Australian Government to extend the initial $150 million COVID-19 funding provided to support Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence due to the fallout from coronavirus during 2020.
While the respective sectors these peak bodies represent each benefitted from the initial funding during a crucial period, the impacts of COVID-19 are far from over. These sectors each face a significant rise in demand for services from people impacted by family and sexual violence and an increase in complexity of cases.
We urge the Australian Government to commit to further resourcing specialist family violence and sexual assault services to respond to the ongoing impacts of the pandemic.
The peak bodies for Victorian specialist family violence services have today issued a joint statement in support of people across Australia sharing their experiences of sexual violence and seeking stronger institutional responses across all parts of our community.
The recently-merged Domestic Violence Victoria and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria have united with No To Violence to support calls for reform.
“We must listen to and believe victim survivors,” said DV Vic/DVRCV CEO Tania Farha.
“And we need to do much more than listening and believing. We must shift the structures and systems that allow sexual violence to occur. They are the same structures and systems that so often fail victim survivors when they come forward,” Ms Farha added.
Ms Farha highlighted the multiple barriers survivors face when reporting abuse, which often result in a decision not to pursue a formal complaint.
“This story is broader than any individual, any specific workplace or any one incident. The reaction we have seen to recent survivor accounts is telling. We have seen those with power deflecting responsibility, rather than reflecting on the toxic culture that allows violence to occur and then relies on shame to keep victim survivors silent.”
“Condoning disrespect and discrediting survivors’ experiences are at once the symptoms and the causes of the epidemic of gendered, sexual and family violence in this country. All of us have a role in changing that.”
Jacqui Watt, CEO of No To Violence, pointed out the alarmingly high rates of men’s violence in Australia.
“While media and the public may be tempted to question any one victim survivor or set of allegations, there is no question whatsoever about how prevalent this abuse is. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 figures show one in three girls and women over 15 have experienced physical or sexual violence – or both. What public attention seldom highlights is how many men have used these forms of violence – this needs to change.”
Ms Watt also highlighted the need to acknowledge the culture that enables these forms of abuse, and the importance of embedding accountability across all workplaces and communities.
“Sexual violence is a manifestation of disrespect and gendered power imbalances that permeate our homes, workplaces and online spaces. We must listen to people when they call out disrespect, and we must call on everyone to challenge sexism when they see and hear it among friends and colleagues.”
DV Vic/DVRCV and No To Violence acknowledge that recent media coverage and public conversation may be harmful and distressing for people who have or are currently experiencing abuse of any kind.
“Support is available. Specialist services are here for you, and will believe you,” Ms Farha said.
Where to get help
Sexual Assault Crisis Line
Support for people who have experienced past or recent sexual assault.
Call: 1800 806 292 (24 hours)
Information, counselling and support for people affected by family violence or sexual assault. Support is available all day and every day.
Call 1800 737 732 Webchat: 1800respect.org.au
Support for women and children experiencing family violence.
Call 1800 015 188 (24 hours) Webchat: safesteps.org.au Email email@example.com
Men’s Referral Service
Confidential support for men at risk of using family violence.
Call 1300 766 491 (7 days, varying hours) ntv.org.au
Free specialist helpline providing information, support, and referrals for LGBTIQA+ Victorians.
Call 1800 729 367 (10am-6pm, 7 days) Text: 0480 017 246 (10am-6pm, 7 days)