Inquiries alone won't stop domestic violence
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Inquiries alone won't stop domestic violence

The announcement by the Victorian government of a royal commission into family violence is without doubt an opportunity to build on the momentum of change that we are witnessing in response to this issue.

Bringing family violence to the forefront of community consciousness and breaking the silence around family violence has been the result of much hard work by many diverse groups each with the focus on ensuring the right of women and their children to live free from violence. The reporting of high-profile murders such as Fiona Warzywoda and 11-year-old Luke Batty and the availability and transparency of the statistics has further illuminated the issue.

"There must be further refinement of approaches, enhanced resourcing and a real commitment to implementation."

"There must be further refinement of approaches, enhanced resourcing and a real commitment to implementation." Credit:Gabriele Charotte

We know that Victoria is not alone in its collective focus on the issue. Several other states and the federal Parliament are currently running with inquiries.

Inquiries need considerable resources. The Victorian Royal Commission is forecast to cost $40m. With funding cut to essential services and limited investment being made in proven prevention programs, there are services and organisations dealing with family violence that could benefit from this investment. That being said there is the real potential for this commission to further foster strong change in domestic violence services from prevention to intervention and support.

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Engaging men in prevention is a key example of where additional funds could enhance real and positive social change. We are seeing the evidence of change driven by strategies and programs that engage men.

Unfortunately this change is not often evidenced in three or four-year political cycles where there is the demand of government to see results delivered that match the length of particular funding rounds. In delivering social change there is little chance of being able to see the benefit from strategies that require longer timeframes and intergenerational action.

The terms of reference for the Victorian royal commission are comprehensive and we welcome the royal commission's focus on prevention, early intervention and perpetrators. As seen with the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, these forums are a valuable platform for victims to tell their stories, to share the limitations of our current responses and thus contribute to the refining of current and future direction.

In this respect, the royal commission is an opportunity to enhance co-ordinated service responses to family violence that draws on the findings of previous inquiries conducted in recent years and is informed by those so directly affected.

We already understand what needs reform and change but there have been curtailed approaches and impediments to change including the pace of that reform. We appreciate that, for example, law reform/harmonisation is a big issue in co-ordinating service responses to family violence - for example, by increasing the effectiveness of apprehended domestic violence orders, but that has been stifled by jurisdictional issues.

There must be further refinement of approaches, enhanced resourcing and a real commitment to implementation. It is not hard for government to fall into the trap of reinventing wheels and failing to learn from what has and hasn't worked to date.

Changing the entrenched attitudes and behaviours that fuel some men's controlling or violent behaviours requires more time, even more than the 10 years that White Ribbon has been working in the area.

We do have knowledge of what is working, we are building the research and evidence base but we still have a long way to go and resources are critically short.

Engaging men in prevention is a key example of where additional funds could enhance real and positive social change.

Foremost in our minds should be ongoing reform of the system in a way that transcends political cycles to deliver change, rather than the conduct of one resource-intensive inquiry after another.

Libby Davies is the CEO of White Ribbon Australia

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