Suite of initiatives in plan to halt violence

“FOR many, home is anything but a safe haven.”

This powerful message came from Child Protection Minister Helen Morton as she launched the Freedom From Fear Action Plan 2015 last week.

The plan outlines priority areas with 20 actions to increase the safety of women and children at risk, and to hold perpetrators accountable for their violence and abuse.

“The action plan, ‘Freedom from Fear, Working Towards the Elimination of Family and Domestic Violence in Western Australia’, puts perpetrators on notice that any form of abuse against women and children is not tolerated,” she said.

Among the 20 actions are plans to introduce new restraining orders specific to family and domestic violence, respectful relationship education in schools, a pilot program for male perpetrators of family and domestic violence who also misuse substances, and improved emergency access to women’s refuges in the metropolitan area.

“Family and domestic violence will not be eliminated without a strong and shared response to the perpetrators of this abhorrent crime,” she said.

Several State and Australian government agencies and a host of community service providers have put their weight behind the action plan, including WA Police and Anglicare.

South East Metropolitan WA Police Victim Support Co-ordinator Sergeant Sally Warner said the role of her unit was to promote uniformity of procedures and utilise best practice by police when managing family and domestic violence, repeat and vulnerable victims.

“The VSU predominantly deal with victims of family and domestic violence,” she said.

“The unit comprises of a Sergeant co-ordinator and a number of Police Constables.”

She said representatives from the Department of Child Protection and Family Support and a designated non-government

support agency make up the tri-agency response to family domestic violence incidents.

From January to June this year, police managed nearly 4000 family domestic violence incidents just in the South East Metropolitan district.

Anglicare Family and Domestic Violence Services consultant Victoria Cooke said they provided information and expertise on a range of issues as part of the Family and Domestic Violence Community Sector Roundtable.

She said the plan was a long-awaited set of policy initiatives to issues that the community sector and in particular, agencies that work directly with perpetrators, had been raising for some time.

“By having an action plan with a focus on perpetrator accountability, families and communities will be better informed about the patterns of deliberate behaviour that lead to actions requiring police and justice interventions,” she said.

“We need to focus on those who display attitudes, beliefs and actions much earlier.

We need to resource families to speak to their young men and other family members who are showing worrying signs of abuse-supportive attitudes.”

She said the plan would go a long way to assist and was a call to action given the work still to be done.

How does a local organisation help?

AMONG other services, Belmont’s Jacaranda Community Centre has financial counsellors and Aboriginal family support officers who see an endless amount of domestic violence victims.

Financial counsellor Clarissa Harp said she had seen clients who were in refuges escaping domestic violence who needed financial advice so they could leave the refuge.

“Money issues and stress are factors of domestic violence,” she said.

“We get a lot of referrals from refuges or the Department of Children and Families, which are usually domestic violence cases.”

At Jacaranda, the officers not only help with financial counselling but can also link the victims up with other services so they leave with everything sorted.

Jacaranda’s Aboriginal family support officers work a lot with domestic violence victims when it comes finding them homes.

Jacaranda helps with housing evictions and urgent transfers for victims.

Freedom From Fear Action Plan 2015

Priority one: Promote understanding and awareness about family and domestic violence.

Priority two: Target communities and populations at greatest risk.

Priority three: Trial and evaluate innovative approaches to perpetrator intervention.

Priority four: Promote consistent quality practice in engaging and responding to men who use violence.

Priority five: Increase the capacity and authority of the service system to stop perpetrators of family and domestic violence when they are identified.

Key Statistics

Personal Safety Survey 2012, Australian Bureau of Statistics

– WA has the second highest rate of reported physical and sexual violence perpetrated against women in Australia

– Fewer than 20 per cent of women who experience violence from an intimate partner report it to the police.

Western Australia Police, 2014

– In 2013-2014, WA Police responded to more than 40,000 calls for assistance in cases of family and domestic violence.

– The majority of family and domestic violence perpetrators known to police have been responsible for multiple acts of violence or abuse.

Source: Freedom From Fear Action Plan 2015