Extra funds to tackle family violence

NEWS of almost $1 million in extra funds to tackle family violence across Gippsland has been welcomed by one of the region’s leading agencies in the field.

Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault chief executive Fiona Boyle said the new money had allowed her agency to recruit an additional staff member already, with the intended immediate impact of reducing its waiting lists by 20 and “ongoing, through the year, that could equate to 100 people plus”.

State Women’s Affairs Minister Mary Wooldridge said the new funds would “improve access to support services for women and children in the immediate aftermath of family violence incidents and for specialist recovery services”.

Ms Boyle said last week’s announcement, combined with other recent funds for programs to tackle sexualised behaviours in young people and funding support for a local Multi-Disciplinary Centre, indicated the State Government was serious about “filling a gap that has been needed for a very long time”.

State Member for Morwell Russell Northe said the funding, to be spread across GCASA, Quantum Support Services, Latrobe Community Health Service and Bass Coast Regional Health, would boost the ability of those agencies to: provide 24-hour crisis support and advocacy following a sexual assault; develop safety plans for women and children at risk of family violence; undertake an assessment of the immediate risk of harm to women and children; and increase access to individual, group and family based therapy.

Ms Boyle said she was “really impressed” with the government’s recognition of the need for increased early intervention approaches and the benefits of service integrations, to be provided via an MDC which was expected to be established during the next financial year.

“The sexualised behaviour program has been tripled so even the thought process behind seeing the need for that sort of early intervention – and not just looking at band aid (solutions), thinking ‘we’ll fix that problem after’ – shows they understand that being proactive is a much better option… it signals the government is understanding issues and trying to get to them before they occur,” she said.

Ms Boyle said sites were still being assessed for a future MDC and it was expected the new service would “be built, renovated and up and running” in the 2013-2014 year.

Latrobe Community Health Service confirmed it would receive an additional $110,000 over the next 18 months as part of the new funding program.

LCHS executive director community support Anne-Maree Kaser said the funding would be “targeted to responses that support children affected by family violence”.

“This additional support is very welcome,” she said, but added it fell “well short of addressing the full needs of family violence services in the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland.”

Ms Wooldridge said the recent allocations were “part of more than $90 million investment this year that underpinned the Coalition Government’s Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women and Children – Everyone has a Responsibility.”

“Violence against women and children is unacceptable and we need to ensure that victims can access services to increase their safety and support them in their recovery.

“We want to prevent violence from happening in the first instance, but when it does occur we need to have the right support in place for the women and children who experience it,” she said.