State plan ‘inadequate’: CASA

Bendigo victim support services have said a state government action plan to combat violence against women – which includes raising the maximum penalty for contravention of intervention orders from two to five years’ jail – does not go far enough.

Premier Ted Baillieu released Victoria’s Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women and Children this week.

It outlines a “whole-of-government approach to addressing the scourge of family violence and sexual assault” including new and expanded initiatives worth $7.9 million.

Programs will run in the community, schools and workplaces to change attitude and behaviours.

 They include a ‘Bystander Program’, to educate people on what to do when somReone is a victim or perpetrator of family violence.

But Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) chief executive officer Eileen Oates said there was little focus on the needs of survivors of sexual assault, in the report.

Ms Oates also questioned the scope of the funding.  “We welcome the release of an action plan and a focus on primary prevention but we consider the funding identified is inadequate for it to be effective,” she said.

“To reach the goals of the action plan seems very ambitious – it would require a lot of additional resources.”

Ms Oates said more money needed to be committed to front line services.

“When community education occurs there is always an increase in demand for services and that strains service providers. “We already have a waiting list, we are already at capacity, we have concerns about how we can ensure clients’ needs are met in a timely way.”

Bendigo’s domestic assaults rose 55.6 per cent in the last financial year according to Victoria Police statistics. In 2011-12, 235 incidents were reported to police.

In the Campaspe police service area, 59 incidents were reported, a 22.9 per cent increase. 

In Central Goldfields and Macedon, domestic assaults remained static  at 78 and 76 reports respectively.

Centre for Non Violence’s manager of women’s and children’s services Cheryl Munzel said she welcomed a renewed commitment to combating family violence, but said there had to be concrete measures as well as awareness-raising.

“Only when we have made homes safer for women and their children will women stop fleeing their homes to find safety,” she said. 

“We urge the government not to neglect the need for safe housing for women escaping family violence.”

Ms Munzel said she would also like to see more funding for Victoria’s Coroner’s Court.

“Ongoing funding for the Coroner’s Court to review family violence deaths is very important so we can learn the contexts in which violence occurs and prevent them. 

“We understand the Coroner’s Court requires $250,000 per annum to keep this work going.”

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