MORE than a quarter of the people who sought help from Bendigo’s 10 leading not-for-profit community sector organisations in the past financial year were women who had experienced family violence or sexual assault.
One in five people in Bendigo – a total of 23,516 people – sought assistance from Anglicare Victoria, Bendigo Community Health Services, Golden City Support Services, ARC Justice, Amicus, Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault, Centre for Non-Violence, Annie North Inc, CatholicCare Sandhurst, and Haven; Home, Safe in 2017/18.
Women who had experienced family violence or sexual assault accounted for more than 6000 of those people.
Annie North chief executive Julie Oberin said the data released ahead of the third Community Sector Showcase was the tip of the iceberg, as family violence and sexual assault was under-reported.
“We are seeing numbers this high because more people are seeking support due to the social and economic inequalities widening,” Ms Oberin said.
“Without addressing the structural drivers behind homelessness, family violence, sexual assault and poverty the need for our services will continue to grow.”
Centre for Non-Violence general manager Yvette Jaczina said family violence was preventable.
“As services, we work together to meet the needs of women and children,” she said.
Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault counsellor and advocate Meegan Stanley said demand for the centre’s services had massively increased, in part because of the Me Too movement and Royal Commissions.
The specialist service provider had 970 clients in the past financial year, assisting 730 people in the City of Greater Bendigo.
Children and young people under the age of 18 made up 42 per cent of Loddon Campaspe CASA’s clients.
Ms Stanley said having relationships with other services in the sector was critical.
“It’s great to see things like the Community Sector Showcase happening,” she said.
The Community Sector Showcase takes place at the Bendigo TAFE Health and Community Centre of Excellence from November 13 – 14.
It provides a forum for industry and community members to learn more about the work the participating agencies are doing. The showcase is free to attend and open to the public.
The first day of the program runs from 3pm – 6pm and features 30 exhibitor information stands.
A report to the community on the state of the sector is expected to be the highlight of the second day of the showcase, which runs from 8am – 11.30am.
For more information or to register to attend, click here.
Demonstrated need for help to access health, legal, housing and disability services
Nearly 2500 people received legal services, tenancy advice and support from ARC Justice last year.
The not-for-profit community organisation’s reach extends across much of the region, encompassing Housing Justice, the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre, and the Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre.
“Unmet legal issues can impact a person’s well-being in many ways, interacting negatively with physical and mental health. So timely legal support is critical to avoid this escalation,” chief executive Hayley Mansfield said.
She said access to legal support could involve providing information to community members so they understood the law and how it applied to them, as well as support to address legal issues that arose.
One of the programs the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre delivers is a health-justice partnership with Bendigo Community Health Services.
BCHS spokesperson Rod Case said the partnership was an example of the many ways in which community sector organisations in Bendigo worked together to minimise disadvantage.
He said the two-day event provided an opportunity to celebrate and recognise the sector’s work.
The Bendigo Community Health Services medical practice team provided more than 40,000 consultations in 2017/18.
More than 12,908 hours of support were provided by the family services team, and more than 1230 women attended the Women’s Health Clinic.
BCHS offers more than 50 services and programs.
“We are well known for some, but not for all,” Mr Case said.
The roll-out of the NDIS has prompted growth in the disability services sector.
Amicus has employed more than 100 additional staffers to help meet demand, chief executive Ann-Maree Davis said.
Catholic Care executive director Rhonda Lawson-Street said the issues families were seeking help for was increasingly complex, and highlighted the need for an intensive process to support families and equip them for stronger futures.
The cost of providing assistance
The community sector employs about 1220 people in Bendigo, according to the 10 organisations partnering in the upcoming showcase.
Haven; Home, Safe CEO Ken Marchingo said a combined annual payroll of $63 million state and federal-funded annual operating budgets of more than $80 million meant the importance of the community sector partners to Bendigo’s economy could not be overstated.
“In addition to wages, our partners reported they spent nearly $14 million with local businesses and contractors,” he said.
“More importantly the sector is supporting people in greatest need in our community. In our case, it’s helping to house the homeless and those people at risk of becoming homeless and keeping them housed.”
A total of 341 volunteers deliver 35,250 hours of service to the organisations involved in the Community Sector Showcase.
“Our organisations are built on the goodwill and effort of so many people who strive to build a better life for everyone in their community,” Anglicare regional director Francis Lynch said.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800respect.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
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