Support for rise in domestic violence

By Evelyn Leckie

POLICE say they are expecting a rise of domestic violence reporting rates as the community adjusts to a new way of living with social distancing and victims finding ways of seeking help.

“Police continue to respond to any report of family violence – whether from the victim directly, or from a friend, family member or other concerned person on their behalf,” a Victoria Police spokesperson said.

The State Government announced on Friday a two-year funding package for women’s health service across the state to enable women and children to get access to family violence support services.

Minister for Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams said 12 women’s health services across the state would share in $3 million over the next two years to continue their work in preventing family violence.

Of the 12 services receiving funding, nine are regionally based while three operate state-wide. The closest centre receiving funding to Mitchell Shire, City of Whittlesea and Macedon Ranges is Women’s Health in the North, at Thornbury.

The investment includes $600,000 from a recent $59.4 million mental health package to help meet demand as people reach out for help with stress and isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

The State Government also announced last week a $40.2 million package for crisis accommodation and specialist services for people suffering or at risk of family violence.

Mitchell Shire Council acting chief executive Mary Agostino said any investment in supporting victims of family violence was welcomed.

“All of us are experiencing unprecedented times and for women and children who may be in volatile situations, having somewhere they can go is critical. Crisis accommodation is in short supply, and there is none in the Mitchell Shire,” Ms Agostino said.

“Knowing that there is somewhere to go can be a life line.

“Local agencies, Nexus, Family Care, the Bridge, Seymour Health and The Kilmore and District Hospital have been meeting through the pandemic to ensure we have coordinated services, and our key concerns are family violence along with homelessness, mental health and the financial impacts on our community.”

Family violence is a national emergency, with one woman killed at the hands of a current or former partner every week. It is the leading cause of death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15 to 44 years.

Disaster events cause enormous emotional, social and financial stress, and research shows it can compound the gendered drivers of violence and exacerbate the conditions that lead to violence.

“Some residents will not know where to turn, as it may be their first time needing support. We will be highlighting a central number where our residents can call and be triaged to the right agency,” Ms Agostino said.

She said people could call the council’s customer service team on 5734 6200 to be directed to the appropriate service.