If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au In an emergency, call 000.
Keep an eye on this page for coverage from Victorian sites across the Fairfax Media network.
- Royal Commission into Family Violence findings to be released
- EDITORIAL: We need to draw on those with expertise
- Time to reduce harm
- Watershed moment for family violence sector
- Premier commits to change
- Film night to fight violence
- Stop LGBTI violence: commission
- Local soluction focus
- ‘They all need to read it’ magistrate tells men
- Thanks for Bendigo services
- Family violence never ‘a storm in a teacup’
- Services to play a role
- Court changes urged
- Bendigo magistrate urges men to read report
After 13 months, hearing from 220 victims and a producing a massive 1900-page report, here's the main recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Premier Daniel Andrews has said he will implement all recommendations.
1. One-stop safety hubs: Victoria needs to establish highly-visible "support and safety" hubs throughout the state so that victims can get information and find services in their local area. These would get police referrals, link victims with specialist support, do risk assessments and book victims into crisis accommodation.
2. Make new laws: Privacy should not trump victim safety, and laws will be changed to allow information-sharing. A centralised service will share information about perpetrators with police, courts, family violence services and the safety hubs. This information would also be available to the state's 24-hour crisis helpline, Safe Steps.
3. He should leave: A substantial expansion of the 'safe at home' approach, where women and children remain in the family home while a perpetrator has to leave, where possible. Victims could get rental or mortgage subsidies and electronic personal safety devices, as well as police monitoring.
4. A housing 'blitz': Woman and children who have left their homes and are stuck in crisis or short-term housing should be immediately rehoused with the support of expanded individual funding. There is an urgent need to address the housing response to family violence, it finds. A housing taskforce should be set up to end blockages in the system and quantify the number of social housing units needed for victims who can't get private rental.
5. Focus on abuser: Programs that deal with perpetrators are entirely insufficient and increased monitoring and insight is needed. A relatively small number of repeat offenders account for a disproportionate number of family violence incidents. To this end, specialist panels that assess the risk from repeat offenders should be extended across Victoria.
6. Create more family violence courts: An expansion of specialist courts – currently in places like Frankston and Heidelberg - that can deal with the complexities facing victims in the one place, including criminal, family law and civil matters. All family violence matters should be heard in specialist courts within five years.
7. Protect children: Children should have more access to counselling and other supports, and be automatically included on intervention orders or have their own order.
8. Hospital assistance: Public hospitals should be resourced to have a whole-of-hospital response to family violence. Routine screening for domestic violence at all public antenatal appointments. Victoria to encourage federal government to consider a medicare-billed option for family violence counselling.
9. Appoint a watchdog: An independent Family Violence Agency to hold governments to account. To this end the commissioners have also put timeframes on all of their recommendations, some immediate, others longer term.
10. More money (of course): The commission was given a budget of $36 million to run its investigation and has only spent $13.5. It recommends the remaining $22.5 million be used to kick-start the response towards the current crisis and be given to family violence services. But this is only the start. The state government allocated $80.6 million to family violence in 2014-15. But these recommendations will cost far, far more than this amount and will need to take priority in the upcoming state and federal budgets, the commission finds. It does not set a dollar figure.
11. Frontline policing: More use of investigative and mobile technology for police, including the trial of body-worn cameras. More training for police to increase their understanding on the mechanics of family violence.
12. Better understanding: Family violence training for all key workers, including those in hospitals and schools, and an expansion of respectful relationships education in schools. "Failure to give priority to prevention risks condemning future generations to the plight of today's victims of family violence.
13. Aboriginal communities: Family violence rates are higher among indigenous Australians but women and children face cultural barriers when trying to get support. Victoria must establish a state-wide, culturally-appropriate response to improve this, focused on first five years of life.
14. Victims come from all walks of life: Senior, multicultural and disability specialist family violence services to provide training to family violence service providers to advise on their particular needs.
15. Local councils have a job too: Required to report on the measures that they take to reduce family violence and respond to victims.
For help in an emergency call 000.
Safe Steps: 1800 015 188
The Men's Referral Service: 1300 766 491
UPDATE, 11.15AM: Tackling family violence will need new laws, stronger investigative powers for police and a "blitz" to rehouse women and children, a royal commission has found.
The final report from the Royal Commission into Family Violence made more than 200 recommendations to the Victorian government, which has previously agreed to implement them all.
Safety hubs would be introduced throughout Victoria by July 2018, providing a full range of support services to victims.
New laws to allow better sharing of information so the privacy of perpetrators "does not trump victims' safety" have also been recommended.
The commission called for an independent family violence agency to "hold government to account", and more specialist family violence courts.
It also called for police to gain access to more mobile technology, including a trial of cameras worn on the body.
The enormous pressure mounting on support services was repeatedly referred to as the commission conducted hearings, depicting a fragmented and disorienting system for victims.
The report warned that too many breaches of intervention orders were not being prosecuted.
The #RCFC report contains 227 recommendations - key message, good things being done but overall response to fv needs to be transformed.— Nicole Ferrie (@nicoleferrie) March 30, 2016
"Perpetrators are not deterred from continuing to abuse their victims if police and court responses are inconsistent, delayed and uncertain," it said.
An immediate funding boost for support services and more resources for Indigenous initiatives are among the report's recommendations.
Changes to laws would include giving new powers to the government to approve a "family violence risk assessment" and ensure family violence agencies meet new requirements on risk assessments, procedures and practices.
A central information point would also be established and led by Victoria Police to be accessed by other agencies, including safety hubs, crisis services and the Men's Referral Service.
All parts of the family violence response system are overwhelmed, the report said, including courts, police and support services.
Key workers in the health system and schools were still not equipped to recognise family violence, it found.
The many forms of abuse were insufficiently recognised, with inadequate responses that fail to meet the circumstances and needs of victims.
The report said the significant majority of victims were women and children, with men perpetrating most abuse. But the response must include violence against children, parents, siblings and people in same-sex relationships, it said.
Although the commission sat for 13 months, hearing from victims, workers and police, it spent only $13.5 million of its $36 million budget. The balance will go back into back into the system.
EARLIER: A report of findings and recommendations from the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence will be released in Melbourne today.
Leading women’s services advocates hope recommendations include ‘strong, robust strategies’ to address gender inequality and improve the safety of women and children.
They’re also hoping to see the good work of the sector acknowledged and a government commitment to a co-design of any proposed new programs.
The findings will be tabled in parliament before being released to the public.
The state government has promised to implement all of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.