New plan to end family violence

The Victorian government has released a 10 year plan to end family violence. Photo: Gabrielle Charlotte

The Victorian government has released a 10 year plan to end family violence. Photo: Gabrielle Charlotte

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The state government has released a 10 year plan to end family violence. 

It promises to invest a further $218 million into social housing and private rental assistance, establish a network of support and safety hubs, and recruit new specialist family violence workers. 

New laws will be introduced early next year to ensure family violence risk is factored into bail applications. 

The plan also outlines new information sharing laws, which will prioritise victim safety over the privacy of perpetrators. 

Family violence intervention orders will become ‘more victim friendly,’ and specialist family violence courts will be created. 

"This is a landmark plan which will change the way the courts operate and provide more support to vulnerable Victorians who are victims of family violence,” said Attorney-General Martin Pakula.

The plan includes the establishment of a Victoria Police Family Violence Centre of Learning. 

“If we can improve investigations into family violence incidents, we'll ensure better outcomes for victims and tougher consequences for offenders,” Minister for Police Lisa Neville said.

A primary prevention strategy and a statewide behavioural change campaign will be rolled out. 

The plan, titled Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s Plan for Change, is based on the 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. 

It acknowledges the need for the state government to change the way it works, and outlines the creation of “a number of new bodies.”

A support and safety hubs coordination agency, a prevention agency, and a Centre for Workforce Excellence are among those bodies.

The Victorian Centre for Data Insights has been tasked with improving the way the government collects and analyses data to protect families at risk. 

The state government has invested $600 million in housing since the Royal Commission’s findings were released in March.

The state budget for this financial year included a record $572 million investment into tackling family violence.

Details about ‘further funding needed to implement our reforms’ will be outlined in a 10 year investment plan, to be released in March 2017.

On average, one woman is killed every week in Australia by a current or former partner.

‘No room for violence in a relationship’

Even after 27 years, Bendigo Senior Sergeant Craig Gaffee remembers the first family violence incident he attended.

It was in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray, and he was about 20 years old.

The couple in crisis had been married for many years.

It was well before Victoria Police launched its Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence, in 2005. A reviewed and updated copy rests within Senior Sergeant Gaffee’s reach as he chats.

“Twelve months ago there was a new training package,” he says. 

“Just recently, there was a new training package for supervisors.”

A 10 year plan to end family violence, released on Thursday, included additional training for Victoria Police officers, strengthened intervention orders and bail processes.

Options available to police to respond to family violence, at present, include making referrals to support services.

“All our referrals go to the Centre for Non-Violence,” Senior Sergeant Gaffee says.

Police have the power to separate the perpetrator from the victims, and to restrict their contact if they believe the victims are at risk.

“We can take action immediately,” Senior Sergeant Gaffee says.

A family violence safety notice also results in a court date and an application for an intervention order.

Victoria Police recorded 470,645 family violence incidents, involving 217,995 perpetrators, from January 2006 to December 2015.

About 38 per cent of those perpetrators had more than one family violence incident recorded.

Bendigo Police Station is home to a family violence unit, aimed at reducing recidivism and high-risk incidents.

“There is no room for violence in a relationship, and there is help available,” Senior Sergeant Gaffee said.

“We’d like to see people have the confidence not only in the police approach but the whole of government approach.”

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