Domestic violence is an issue that affects our entire community. We know that domestic, family and sexual violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women in their own homes and that many children witness and are affected by this violence.
Family, sexual and domestic violence is a complex problem which needs a co-ordinated response that starts with prevention, addresses legal and support services at times of crisis and continues through to post-crisis and perpetrator intervention work.
As Minister for Women it is my priority that we work across government to continue to provide quality supports to women who need a crisis response while at the same time working on the prevention and post-crisis priorities that will help us bring an end to violence.
To address this issue, the ACT Government developed the ACT Prevention of Violence against Women and Children Strategy 2011‑2017‑ Our Responsibility: Ending violence against women and children which provides overarching principles to guide violence prevention activities across government and non-government agencies.
In 2014-15, the ACT Government provided over $5.5 million towards crisis responses, accommodation and outreach services for women affected by violence.
Examples of what has been delivered so far under the Strategy include:
- The Partners in Prevention Function held in November 2012, with over 170 business leaders to consider how violence against women affects them as employers.
- Introduced a leave entitlement of 20 days per annum for employees experiencing domestic/family violence for ACT employees.
The ACT Women’s Grants fund a range of projects to support women who have experienced violence:
- The Women’s Centre for Health Matters and Canberra Rape Crisis Centre have developed an online media campaign for the 2013-14 Summer of Respect Campaign.
- The YWCA of Canberra developed the Respect Communicate Choose Respectful Relationship Project, targeted at 8-12 year olds.
- The Women’s Centre for Health Matters developed tools to encourage respectful reporting of violence against women and children in the ACT media.
- WESNET provided SafetyNet Technology Safety Training for professionals to assist women and girls experiencing violence to increase their privacy and safety.
- The Women’s Centre for Health Matters developed the Gender and the Safe Use of Public Space in the ACT project.
To support men to change their behaviour there are a number of initiatives including:
- Working with the Man – the ACT Government provided funding to the Canberra Men’s Centre for a specialist intensive supported accommodation, coordinated case management and counselling intervention program.
The Second Implementation Plan for the ACT Prevention of Violence against Women and Children Strategy 2011‑2017‑ Our Responsibility: Ending violence against women and children is currently under development and will include an increased focus on linkages between domestic and family violence, the Human Services Blueprint and A Step Up for Our Kids and the Out of Home Care Strategy.
In the ACT Justice and Community Safety Directorate there are many initiatives to enhance service support to women and children experiencing violence.
The ACT Family Violence Program provides an interagency response bringing together ACT Policing, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, Victim Support ACT, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, ACT Corrective Services, the Victims of Crime Commissioner and Legal Aid. Core components of the Program include pro-arrest, pro-charge and presumption against bail, early provision of victim support, pro-prosecution, co-ordination and case management and rehabilitation of offenders.
The Victims of Crimes Act 1994 was amended to establish a Victims of Crime Commissioner and provide a stronger governance framework to ensure the independence of victims’ right to protection.
ACT Sexual Assault Reform Wraparound Program approach provides a coordinated response to victims of sexual assault reporting, or considering reporting, to the ACT Police. The Wraparound approach comprises Canberra Rape Crisis Centre and the Service Assisting Male Survivors of Sexual Assault, Australian Federal Police, Victim Support ACT, Care and Protection Child at Risk Health Unit, Forensic and Medical Sexual Assault Care and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Programs provided by ACT Corrective Services include:
- The Family Violence Cognitive Self‑Change Program which is offered to sentenced detainees.
- The adopted NSW Out of the Dark Program for delivery at the Alexander Maconachie Centre. The program is for women who have experienced domestic and family abuse as victims.
- The NSW Corrective Services Domestic Abuse Program targeted at offenders who are convicted of a domestic violence offence and are in custody or subject to supervision by Community Corrections.
In reviewing and improving intervention practices for perpetrators, ACT Corrective Services is developing the program in line with the National Outcomes Standards for Perpetrator Interventions and the ACT Prevention of Violence against Women and Children Strategy 2011‑2017.
There have also been a number of changes to legislation in the ACT including:
- In October 2013, the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 was introduced. This amendment removed the statute of limitations and allows prosecution of certain historical sexual offences committed between 1951 and 1985.
- In response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, ACT Policing has established Operation Attest to investigate allegations of historical sexual abuse at institutions within the ACT.
In 2011 the Office for Women developed a tool kit to assist decision makers and planners of community events to consider personal safety in planning and the government made the undertaking of women’s safety assessments a standard practice for all ACT Government public events.
The Women’s Safety Audit process brings individuals together to walk through the venue, evaluate how safe it feels, identify ways to make the space safer for women and a process to bring about those changes.
The ACT Government supports several projects to expand the use of Women’s Safety Assessments:
- The Women’s Centre for Health Matters received $10,000 to further expand the use of women’s safety assessments for ACT Government funded public events and environmental design in urban planning.
- Women’s Centre for Health Matters received funding of $14,749 for the Older Women’s Safety Audit, improving the safety of public spaces.
Undertaking Women’s Safety Assessments as a standard practice provides the opportunity to raise the profile and importance for women and girls safety at all ACT Government events.
The ACT Government is also working alongside other States and Territories on the Second Action Plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 to support research into best practice policy through a range of avenues both at the local and national level.
At a national level the ACT Government has a board representative on and contributes $24,150 per annum to Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, an independent, not-for-profit organisation, to raise awareness and respond to the issues of violence, to better target interventions and activities to make a real difference in the ACT and our community.
The ACT Participation (Women’s) Grants Program includes a Violence Prevention category entitled the Audrey Fagan Violence Prevention Projects. Research based Violence Prevention Projects that have previously received funding include:
- The Domestic Violence Crisis Service received funding for the Staying at Home after Domestic Violence project, aimed at identifying current gaps in service to support women who choose to remain in the home post-crisis.
- ACT Shelter received funding for the Older Women and Homelessness: Strengthening the ACT Response project, to undertake gendered research to identify strengths and gaps in service.
In partnership with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, the ACT Government provides the ACT Government Audrey Fagan Churchill Fellowships for women in leadership roles. The Audrey Fagan Churchill Fellowship Program has supported research into such projects as:
- Exploring international best practice on gender equity focusing on promoting gender equality, recruitment and retention of women in the work place.
- Exploring Circles of Support and Accountability programs to implement in the ACT to safely integrate sex offenders back into the community and prevent reoffending.
I welcome the national focus on domestic and family violence and in particular the announcement of Rosie Batty as the 2015 Australian of the Year, for her campaign against family violence. I also support the establishment of the National Advisory Panel on Violence against Women, with the founding members retired including Victorian Police Commissioner, Mr Ken Lay APM, and Ms Rosie Batty.
As a community we must be united to eliminate violence against women. The government must and is responding to domestic violence in our community, but this isn’t an issue the government alone can fix because this isn't just a violence problem. It's problem with the way our community values women.
What we need now, and what women and families who experience violence deserve, is a measured and serious response that builds on the work already being done and we need to get this right.
Here are some services for people experiencing violence and for people who want to help
If you are a community member who wants advice on how to challenge the culture that creates domestic violence you can access Whatcanyoudo? at: www.helpstopdv.org.au/
If you are a friend, a co-worker, or a family member of someone you believe is experiencing violence and you would like support to reach out to them you can get in touch with 1800Respect (a free 24/7 telephone and online crisis and trauma counselling services for anyone impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence): www.1800respect.org.au or call 1800 737 732
If you know someone experiencing violence you can put them in touch with Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS): www.dvcs.org.au/ or call their 24 Hour Crisis Line on 02 6280 0900.
If you are concerned about someone monitoring your outgoing calls or emails DVCS encourage you to contact them via the contact form at the bottom of this page: http://dvcs.org.au/contact-us/.