Royal Commission - our response at a glance

The report delivered by the Royal Commission into Family Violence is as a landmark moment in addressing the epidemic of family violence in Victoria. Many organisations, including ours, made submissions that have influenced the recommendations handed down in April.    

Its 227 recommendations provide a comprehensive outline for long-term, whole-of-government change from primary prevention, to the role of universal and mainstream services in identifying and responding to family violence, to the need to better support specialist family violence services.

Here is a snapshot of the main recommendations affecting our work and our response.

Housing and safe at home

The Commission's recommendations include increasing the number and range of crisis accommodation service models; providing long term rental and mortgage subsidies for those experiencing family violence; expanding safe at home programs over the next two years, increasing Family Violence Flexible Support Packages and amending the Residential Tenancies Act.

CEO Jocelyn Bignold said: These recommendations, more or less, echo the recommendations McAuley Community Services for Women highlighted in its submission, and particularly safe at home options

This is a social justice issue it is the perpetrator who should leave and the victim (usually women and children) be given help to remain safely in their home. This approach also alleviates pressure on the homelessness system, saving the community financial and other resources.

For children, if safe, staying at home offers a much better outcome than becoming homeless. Homelessness can result in distrupted schooling, friendships and links to their communitychildren are more likely to exhibit significant psychological distress; and have more health problems.

We are working hard to improve conditions for women and their children to return to safe housing as soon as possible.

Specialist family violence services

The report emphasised the role specialist family violence services, such as McAuley Community Services for Women, play in keeping women and children safe, and helping them recover from family violence.

Jocelyn Bignold said: We were pleased that the Royal Commission recognised the demand agencies are facing. The Budget investment into the family violence sector is good news, but we are still concerned about long-term funding arrangements for services.

Support for children and young people

The report recognised that children experience family violence, but the current family violence system fails in responding to them.

Jocelyn Bignold said: We are particularly pleased with the recommendations that all crisis accommodation services, such as McAuley Care, have the resources they need to support children and young people. Our children’s program reached out last year to over 200 children, 68 of whom were under two.

Funding prioritized for therapeutic interventions and counselling for children and young people is important. We also know that much more work needs to go into helping mothers and children to improve their bond, which is often damaged by their experience of violence, and this work too, needs funding..

Prevention

The report made two main recommendations that directly affect our work. These are the development of a long-term primary prevention strategy, with measurable targets and outcomes and the inclusion of respectful relationships education in every government school from prep to year 12.

Jocelyn Bignold said: Responding to the family violence crisis is urgent and demand is growing; prevention needs to be part of the solution. Reaching school children and raising awareness about family violence and the link with homelessness, what family violence is, and the importance of respectful relationships, is one of the key areas of our advocacy program within schools.

The other is our work with employers through Engage to Change which assists employers learn how to support employees who might be experiencing family violence and, critically, to assist them to remain safely in with workforce

Early Intervention

The report emphasised the important roles that doctors, hospitals, antenatal and maternal child health services play, often as first point of contact for women experiencing, or at risk of, family violence.

Jocelyn Bignold said: We are pleased to see our points about workforce development and training being addressed in hospitals and routine screening for family violence in public antenatal services.

Central to these recommendations is the review of the Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework which provides us all with a consistent approach that is critical to keeping women and children safe.

Legal responses

The report recommends expanding specialist family violence courts, finding alternative ways to provide evidence in court, including the use of remote technology, and to work through COAG to expand resources for legal assistance services. It also calls on the government to advocate for increased federal funding and reversal of future cuts to funding for legal assistance services.

Jocelyn Bignold said: These recommendations support our submission, and we will continue to work in partnership with other agencies calling for funding for community legal centres.