Violence Prevention

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					Violence Prevention
Domestic and family violence is common in Australia and Queensland, cutting across socio-
economic groups, and with serious social, economic and health consequences for sufferers,
their families, and communities as a whole. Whilst both men and women are victims of
domestic violence, it is far more common for the victim to be a woman and the offender to be a
man. Research has found that 71% of domestic assault incidents reported to the police involved
a female victim, and that 80% of offenders are male1.

Violence poses a significant risk to health and well-being. Women who have been exposed to
violence have a greater risk of developing a range of health problems, including stress, anxiety,
depression, pain syndromes, phobias and somatic and medical symptoms. They are more likely
to report poorer physical health overall and to engage in practices that are harmful to their
health2. Family violence is a factor in many child protection cases and children are present in
many cases of family violence. Exposure to violence in the family increases children’s risk of
mental health, behavioural and learning difficulties in the short term3.

Recognising Progress
The State Government’s most recent efforts to address domestic and family violence include:
• Establishing the Queensland Police Service’s Domestic and Family Violence Unit to expand
   strategies for policing domestic violence in Queensland
• Supporting trialling of a new specialist domestic and family violence court process
• Contributing to the development of the soon to be released Federal Government’s National
   Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children
• Supporting the development of a soon to be released State whole-of-government strategy
   on domestic and family violence

Key Issues
However more needs to be done:
• Enquiries into women’s access to the legal system continue to find that, “the judicial system
   and legal aid arrangements do not provide sufficient or nationally-uniform access to justice
   for women and are fundamentally inadequate”4

For policy makers, the greatest challenge is that abuse remains hidden. At least
20% of women reporting physical violence had never told anyone before being
interviewed. Despite the health consequences, very few women reported seeking
help from formal services like health and police, or from individuals in positions of
authority, preferring instead to reach out to friends, neighbours and family
members. Those who did seek formal support tended to be the most severely
abused 5 (World Health Organisation, Department of Gender, Women and Health 2005)

•   Child abuse and domestic violence are believed to coexist in somewhere between 30 and
    60% of cases6, highlighting the need for integrated responses to family violence, family
    support and preventative child safety responses. Unfortunately many government
    departments and not-for-profit community service organisations continue to provide services
    to families and individuals in isolation
•   New and innovative services such as “fax-back”7 and perpetrator programs have been
    funded in an ad-hoc manner across Queensland, with no linkage to a clearly developed
    strategy to prevent violence
                                                                             QCOSS’S POLICY POSITION – DECEMBER 2008

•   The onus has traditionally been on women to escape violent domestic situations. Domestic
    violence, family violence and family breakdown are major reasons for seeking
    accommodation assistance and approaching homeless services for assistance8. Family
    violence is the primary cause of children’s homelessness and children make up a
    substantial group of supported accommodation service users.
•   Women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, women with
    disabilities and women with mental health and drug and alcohol problems all face
    considerable barriers in accessing the justice system. These include linguistic barriers,
    services lack of knowledge about culture and customs, discrimination, lack of equipment,
    and inaccessibility of information and services.
•   Family and community violence is common amongst Indigenous people and diversity within
    Indigenous cultural practice and between communities make it impossible to generalise
    about the responses needed address family violence.

QCOSS Recommendation
1. Implement, properly fund and evaluate the new state domestic and family violence
    prevention strategy and ensure that it includes:
    • Ongoing review of new and emerging data across jurisdictions as a basis for developing
       an integrated and more proactive prevention response
    • Establishing a formal systemic domestic and family violence fatality review process
    • A review of the underlying issues and causes of the low incidence of reporting and low
       conviction rates for sexual violence
    • Reformation of the judicial responses to family and sexual violence to ensure a
       framework supporting the rights of the victim through strengthening domestic violence,
       sexual assault and child safety laws including a formal review of the Domestic and
       Family Violence Protection Act 1989
    • Evaluation of the models of specialist courts for family and domestic violence and sexual
       assault to inform development of a best-practice model for Queensland and expanded
       support for current Queensland trials
    • Funding of best practice models of working with perpetrators of violence
    • Increased funding to the not-for-profit community services sector for proven and new
       models of specialist family violence services that build on an integrated response and
       support people from crisis, through transition and into long term, sustainable situations
    • Increased support for short and long term accommodation needs, including support for
       options for women to remain safely in their homes if they choose and specific funding for
       services for accompanying children
    • Improving the cultural competence of workers in the legal system and those providing
       support to people who have experienced family violence and easy access to a fully
       funded interpreter service for domestic violence refuges and support services
    • Enhanced investment in community-led responses by Indigenous organisations and
       leaders to address family violence within Indigenous communities
    • Strengthening mainstream capacity to identify and respond to family violence

  People J. Trends and patterns in domestic violence assaults. Crime and Justice Bulletin, No 89, October 2005.
  World Health Organisation. Women and Mental Health: An Evidence Based Review. World health organization, Geneva. 2000.
  Laing l. Progress, trends and challenges in Australian responses to domestic violence, issues paper. Australian Domestic &
Family Violence Clearinghouse, Canberra. 2000.
  Senate Legal and Constitutional Reference Committee, 2004, Legal Aid and Access to Justice, Department of the Senate,
Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
  World Health Organisation, Department of Gender, Women and Health (GWH). Landmark study on domestic violence. 24
November 2005. GENEVA/LONDON.
  Drabsch, T. Domestic Violence in NSW. NSW Parliamentary Library Resesrch Services Briefing Paper. 7/07.
  Australian Domestic Violence Clearing House 2003 Qld’s Inaugual Faxback Forum in Australia in Australian Domestic and Family
Violence Clearinghouse Newsletter Issue No.14, UNSW Sydney.
  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Homeless People in SAAP, Supported Accommodation Assistance Program National
Data Collection Agency Annual Report 2005–06, Cat. No. HOU 156. 2007.

                                                                                                  VIOLENCE PREVENTION – 2

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