This week’s recommendation by the Royal Commission into Family Violence for the establishment of 17 support and safety hubs across Victoria is just one of the Report’s welcome steps forward in the provision of services for women and children escaping family violence, says Annette Gillespie, CEO of safe steps Family Violence Response Centre.
The recommendation follows safe steps’ call for the Government to provide a single, “front-door” entry point for women and children to access linked family violence and other services, as outlined in its submission to the Royal Commission.
Hubs will make it easier for women and children to find help and gain access to services
“The hubs will make it easier for women and children to find help and gain access to a greater range of services efficiently and will help remove barriers to receiving comprehensive and far-reaching support,” says Ms Gillespie.
“Instead of having to go through multiple agencies which can be a traumatic, confusing and lengthy process, women and children will be able to access all relevant services they need at one central point. The importance of this cannot be overstated.”
Children have been the forgotten victims of family violence for too long. Report recommendations will help change that
An equally significant recommendation made by the Royal Commission is the provision of dedicated resources and support for children who are survivors of family violence. These recommendations, which include funding for specialist child-focussed family violence workers at refuges, specific focus on children in intervention orders, as well as funding for therapeutic interventions for child survivors, recognise that children are victims in their own right and have specific needs that need to be met as a priority.
“For too long children have been the forgotten victims of abuse in the home,” says Ms Gillespie.
“We know a significant number of children are witnessing and experiencing family violence. A recent report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that children are present in 61 per cent of family violence incidents.
“Even when they are not direct targets of abuse, family violence can have a devastating impact on children who witness violence in the home.
“Children living in homes where there is family violence are in an environment that is unpredictable and filled with tension and fear. The impact can be ongoing and long lasting.
“Today’s recommendations are a critical step forward towards addressing the impact and harm delivered upon children as a result of family violence.”
Crucial step that family violence survivor voices will finally be heard and be part of the decision-making process
Ms Gillespie went on to say one of the most important underlying themes of the Royal Commission Recommendations is that the voices of women and children who have a lived experience of family violence will not only finally be heard, but will be at the forefront of the decision-making process.
“Both the underlying commitment and the specific recommendation that survivors’ voices are heard and will inform policy development and service delivery within two years is crucial in ensuring that the best possible outcomes for women and children will be achieved,” says Ms Gillespie.
A major step forward, but just the beginning
However, Ms Gillespie says that while today’s report is a major step forward, it must be seen as just the beginning of the vast amount of work that needs to be done to develop the optimal service system to keep women and children safe.
“At the moment we have social structures and systems that make women and children more unsafe. The Royal Commission recommendations give hope that, finally, perpetrators of violence will truly be held accountable, and more accessible and responsive outcomes will be delivered for women and children.
“We are optimistic that, in the coming days and months, as more details come to light, planning is undertaken, and recommendations are implemented, that the specifics continue to build on the early promise of the Commission in showing both courage and leadership in keeping women and children safe.
“Of course, the true measure of the Royal Commission’s success will be survivors’ experience of an improved service and, ultimately a reduction in family violence in our communities.
“We look forward to working with our service partners and the Victorian Government in the co-design of a world-first, survivor-centred family violence response system.”