DISMAY at a 'missed opportunity' has turned to hope for central Victorian experts, following the announcement of a new parliamentary inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence.
Centre for Non-Violence chief executive Margaret Augerinos said the proposed terms of reference, announced at the weekend, offered the potential for a thorough examination.
"We see potential for this inquiry to draw on what we have learnt and the many successful models in place to prevent and respond to women and children who are victim/survivors of family and domestic abuse - and to offer sector-informed solutions to some of the system failings," Ms Augerinos said.
An earlier Senate inquiry, which followed the murders of Brisbane woman Hannah Clarke and her three children, attracted criticism after wrapping up without any recommendations or input from victims and survivors or those working in the sector.
"This new inquiry is an opportunity to explore at systemic level the voices of women and children with lived experience," Ms Augerinos said.
"It is also an opportunity to genuinely listen to advocates, and how working to prevent family violence can be informed through that lens.
"Specialist women's services and peaks across the country have very clear views about what and how change needs to happen, and we welcome any opportunity to share our experiences and knowledge."
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Minister for Women, Senator Marise Payne and Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Anne Ruston proposed the inquiry report on a range of issues.
The draft terms of reference included the impact of of COVID-19 on the prevalence of domestic violence and the provision of support.
Ms Payne expected the inquiry's findings to inform the work of the Women's Safety Council, which she and Ms Ruston co-convene.
"We must listen to the experiences of the sector during this unprecedented time and learn how governments, services and the community can better support women and their children, particularly when home is not a safe place to be," Ms Payne said.
Ms Ruston said the level of family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia remained unacceptably high.
"The more light we can shine on this scourge, the better," she said.
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Responding to the weekend's announcement, Ms Augerinos encouraged the government to continue to acknowledge the sector's immediate needs.
They included fully funding the specialist services women and children relied on to be safe, putting the safety of children first in the family law system, and ensuring everyone's calls for help could be heard.
Other immediate needs included ensuring women and children facing major safety risks could be identified and referred correctly by frontline workers in health, social, family and community services, and improving apprehended violence order standards.
Women's Health Loddon Mallee chief executive Tricia Currie welcomed the inquiry and its proposed terms of reference.
"It's keeping a focus on where it needs to be," Ms Currie said.
She also agreed with the comments Ms Augerinos made about the sector's immediate needs.
Addressing the COVID-19 aspect of the terms of reference, Ms Currie said it was important there was a focus on progress and addressing the structural barriers women encountered that created inequality, rather than snapping back to what was.
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