The NSW Government is calling for public comment on a raft of reforms to help victims of domestic and family violence.
Every year, too many people in our communities experience violence at the hands of someone they know and trust: a husband, partner, family member or relative. In our cities and in rural areas, domestic and family violence is ruining lives.
And it’s not just physical assaults: behaviour that controls, intimidates, terrifies or coerces a person is also domestic and family violence. It includes verbal, psychological, mental and emotional abuse; stalking; harassment; financial abuse and manipulation; denial of freedom and choice; and control of access to family and friends.
Anyone can become a victim of domestic and family violence, but women and children are more likely to experience domestic and family violence perpetrated by men. And it can have devastating effects on their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Statistics show that, for women aged under 45, domestic and family violence is the single greatest cause of death, ill health and disability. In fact, approximately 50 per cent of homicides are classified as domestic homicides, involving victims who share a family or domestic relationship with the offender (Australian Institute of Criminology).
We do not need statistics to argue the case that domestic and family violence can end in death. Recently a number of high profile cases spotlighted by the media have shown how domestic and family violence can escalate into lethal situations.
Children who witness violence in the home experience emotional trauma and they are also more likely to experience or use violence in their own future relationships.
Preventing domestic and family violence means challenging and changing disrespectful values, attitudes and beliefs that allow these behaviours to occur and continue. It also means working with victims to build healthier and safer lives.
Safeguarding people from the serious threat presented by domestic and family violence is not the responsibility of any one person or agency. Throughout NSW, government and non-government agencies, specialist and mainstream services, and legal and statutory services all play a role in making our communities safe.
In many places across NSW, there are examples of highly effective programs that are working to prevent and reduce violence in our communities. But we also know there are systemic problems preventing government and non-government agencies from working as closely and effectively as possible to respond to people who face a serious threat to their safety.
Too often, victims of domestic and family violence face major obstacles in getting the support and protection they need to be safe. Not all victims of violence are able to speak up and identify themselves as victims of domestic and family violence. Those who do wish to speak up may find it difficult to negotiate the pathways they are required to follow to get the help they need.
We also need a system that holds perpetrators to account and provides them with opportunities to change their beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.
Our approaches to working with perpetrators must be based on a solid understanding of the evidence about preventative behavioural change.
In a six-month process, we consulted with hundreds of individuals, groups and agencies across the state with expertise in preventing and responding to domestic and family violence. We have talked about the lessons we can learn from their experiences and we have examined strategies that have worked in other Australian states and internationally.
We have designed a series of reforms that will:
●* Enable us to better identify and support people who face a “serious threat” to their safety;
●* Enable workers across various government and non-government agencies to work in a more cohesive manner to respond and protect those people identified as facing a serious threat to their safety;
●* Enable people to move more effectively between individual agencies (both government and non-government) without having to retell their story, thanks to better information sharing.
These changes move the NSW Government and DFV service sector onto a different path. They will make considerable progress in the way we respond to domestic and family violence. There is no doubt more to do, particularly in areas such as prevention, because domestic and family violence is a complex issue that cannot be fixed overnight.
So we will review these changes and enhance them in the coming years. Nevertheless, through these reforms we are confident we are sending NSW in the right direction, to a future where domestic and family violence will not be tolerated in any of our communities A future where we can stand together to support the victims facing domestic and family violence to ensure “it stops here”.
This is the introduction to a NSW Government document, It Stops Here: Standing together to end domestic and family violence in NSW (http://engage.haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/document/show/971). The document contains reforms that recommend ways to improve responses to domestic and family violence. The Government is calling on the community to have its say on the reforms. Details: www.haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au.