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ACT anti-domestic violence boss calls for better information sharing across sector

The ACT's anti-domestic violence boss will seek to balance victim safety with privacy concerns as the government looks to better share information across the sector to help combat abuse. 

Justice and Community Safety Directorate deputy director-general Vicki Parker was named the territory's first co-ordinator-general for domestic and family violence in May.

Ms Parker said a need for more effective ways to share information between agencies and services – including police, courts, health and crisis support – became "quite clear" when she began examining the territory's response to the problem. 

She said a clearer flow of information would promote much greater awareness for workers and would allow them to help potential victims seek support early on.

But any mechanisms for sharing personal information on victims – who were often women and children – and perpetrators would need to take privacy laws into account.

"People or families that experience domestic violence or are at risk of it touch on the system in a number of spots and sometimes the system might not pick them up," Ms Parker said. 


"I think  it (better information sharing) could make a big difference."

The ACT was only in the early stages of looking at systemic gaps but Ms Parker said staff would look at information sharing protocols developed by the NSW government for domestic violence matters.

"We've been working on a common risk-assessment tool for domestic violence, but what's the point of having a fabulous tool if you're only using it on the little scrap of information that you might have about the particular individual or family where there's a whole lot of other bits of information scattered across government and other service providers which may change your risk assessment if you knew about it?"

Anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty also made a strong push for more information sharing between family violence agencies after the Victorian state coroner delivered his findings into her son Luke's murder. 

It was identified as a vital area for improvement by victims and service providers in the capital and was part of ACT Policing's bolstered approach to tackling domestic violence announced in October. 

A dedicated team now oversees family violence matters and track victims, perpetrators and incidents of abuse through police systems to pick up patterns and create a fuller picture of physical, emotional and financial abuse.

Ms Parker, a senior public servant, was tasked with implementing the government's response to the Domestic Violence Prevention Council's report into domestic and family violence, which also took in sexual assault matters. 

Her appointment came in the midst of a string of homicides linked to family violence in the ACT and growing pressure for law reform, greater funding and cultural change to help reverse the problem. 

She is part-way though a gap analysis to look at how government resources are allocated for family violence and lead reforms to help the government meet its Prevention of Violence against Women and Children Strategy 2011-2017.

Other areas for improvement in the ACT were a lack of long-term support, more help to move people who experienced family violence through the system and financial pressures for victims who didn't qualify for legal aid, Ms Parker said.

The ACT government announced strengthened domestic violence laws and extra funding for crisis support and legal aid groups earlier this year. 

Ms Parker admitted she was "quite shocked, and maybe a bit naive and probably quite ignorant" about how common domestic violence was before she stepped into the role, and said the statistics were frightening. 

"One in four women experiences intimate partner violence, it's quite prevalent.

"I don't think it's new, I don't think there's suddenly this jump in domestic violence.

"I think in the past there was that reaction of it was a private matter and you just didn't get into it, whereas we're now more willing to say, 'that's not good enough'."