Premier asked why state hasn't funded new women's refuge

QUESTIONS: Premier Denis Napthine has been asked questions in parliament.

QUESTIONS: Premier Denis Napthine has been asked questions in parliament.

JUST Built It campaign: Annie North needs funds for refuge

MIXED messages over funding for refuge

VICTORIA’S peak family violence prevention body says the State Budget falls short of what is required to keep women and children safe.

Domestic Violence Victoria chief executive Fiona McCormack has called on premier Denis Napthine to invest in the family violence system to “tighten the net around men who choose to use violence’’.

“We’re calling on the premier to lead on this, we will do everything we can to support him,’’ she said.

“The State Budget this year was terribly disappointing. We know that we need to invest in the family violence system to tighten the net around men who choose to use violence and to keep women and their children safe from harm – this year’s budget fell short”.  

The plea comes as questions about a new Annie North women’s refuge cluster model were put to the premier during a parliamentary budget estimates hearing.

Committee member and Member for Brunswick Jane Garrett asked the premier why, despite the Department of Human Services having land put aside for the new refuge since 2011, has the government not provided the capital works required to fund the project.

“Funding for the refuge in Bendigo would provide life-saving and life-changing services and support and education to women and children fleeing family violence,’’ she said.

“Why has your government refused to fund this vital project over three consecutive budgets?”

Dr Napthine said his government provided about $500,000 in funding to Annie North, but that was recurrent funding for operational costs.

“There have been approaches with regard to further residential accommodation, we are examining and working with Annie North on those matters,’’ he said.

Dr Napthine said family violence was “a very, very important issue and we in this government take it extremely seriously’’.

“That’s why we have provided a leadership role, along with other important community leaders in standing up against family violence and making sure that the community understands there is no place for family violence,’’ he said.

“Family violence is assault, it is illegal, it is criminal behaviour, it is unacceptable behavoiur and it should be dealt with with the full force of the law.’’

The premier said the state government took a “broad comprehensive approach’’ to dealing with family violence, and had increased funding for specific family violence services whilst also increasing the number of police responding to reports, introducing tough new parole laws and more prison beds.

“we make no apology for introducing tougher sentences particularly to do with assaults, not just the coward’s punch out in the street, but also assaults that take place in the bedroom, the bathroom, in the kitchen at home – all of those assaults we are dealing with, with tougher sentencing regimes,’’ he said.

“It is a comprehensive approach being undertaken by this government.’’

But Ms McCormack said that in Victoria last year, there were 29 family violence-related murders.

 “Victoria police responded to over 60,000 family violence incidents last year – there is no indication that these figures are abating,’’ she said.

 “This burgeoning demand is putting enormous pressure on the community service system, the police and the courts”.  

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