Government urged to renew action on domestic violence and support crisis services

Government urged to renew action on domestic violence and support crisis services

Community groups have called on the ACT government to recommit to reducing domestic violence by increasing funding to meet an increasing demand for services.

Budget consultation papers reveal numerous organisations are struggling to provide assistance to women and families affected by domestic violence, despite previous funding commitments by the government.

The ACT government has been urged to continue funding domestic violence services.

The ACT government has been urged to continue funding domestic violence services.

Last year, after highlighting several deaths allegedly linked to domestic violence, Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr provided an additional $250,000 to the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, the Rape Crisis Centre and the Canberra Men's Centre to meet demand.

Although the extra money was welcomed by crisis services workers and ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey, many have warned it is not enough to ensure appropriate long-term support for victims.

In a submission to the government, Families ACT said the $250,000 was provided to address "a spike in demand for services", but said that demand had further increased and more support was needed.


"The cost of this problem is unacceptable both in human and economic terms," the submission said.

"However prevention is a long term goal which will necessitate substantial community education over time."

"Families ACT would be relieved if it was just a 'spike', but as we noted in our budget response, it is in fact an indicator that community education is starting to be effective."

In 2014, the ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Service responded to 15,109 requests for services with 84.5 per cent coming from women. In the same year, the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre received 15,315 crisis calls, an annual increase of 29 per cent.

The Young Women's Christian Association of Canberra called on the government to reinstate funding for housing to support families escaping domestic violence.

"While housing vulnerability is a significant and growing issue across the ACT, the shortage of transitional housing options for families escaping violence is of profound concern," its submission said.

The submission said a lack of affordable accommodation was one of the leading reasons women returned to abusive relationships after leaving.

"Without a significant increase in the supply of transitional housing for those escaping family violence, many women will leave abusive partners only to find they have nowhere to go," the submission said.

ACT Council of Social Service urged the government to continue funding legal services and support for those at risk of homelessness, who may have experienced domestic violence.

"For those whose homelessness is caused by domestic violence, their legal issues may involve family law issues including divorce, division of property, and care of children," its submission said.

"They may also experience a number of civil law problems including debts arising from financial abuse experienced in the context of their violent relationship."

The National Council of Women ACT called on the government to provide additional funding to the Domestic Violence Crisis Centre.

"Due to a cut in funding by the Commonwealth government the DVCS has lost their funding for interpreter services," its submission said.

"This amounted to $20,000 a year. They are currently funding this need from their budget but it means other services are stretched."

A recent survey commissioned by the Youth Coalition ACT found that many governments could be delivered more efficiently and productively.

"The ACT government provides very little support specifically tailored for young people who have experienced domestic violence," one respondent said.

"This leads to feeling lost in the 'system' and not getting the support we need to manage our situation not only in terms of safety but also effects on mental health. Without youth specific support this area is a lonely place to be."

Henry Belot

Henry Belot is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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