Canberra's frontline domestic violence crisis workers have renewed calls for a sustained funding boost in this year's ACT budget as new figures prompted fears they would be unable to meet unrelenting demand from abused women seeking help.
Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT executive director Mirjana Wilson said the latest statistics from the service painted a "dire picture" and highlighted a need for ongoing financial help.
The service has fielded 19,796 phone calls to its 24-hour crisis line since July last year. That's already 2000 more than the 17,701 calls received in the 2014-15 financial year, and the 15,661 answered the previous year.
Frontline workers have also carried out 1460 crisis visits or interventions so far this financial year, a jump from 1270 the previous year and 1210 in 2013-14.
Ms Wilson said the service would be unable to provide adequate help to those victims, the vast majority of which were women, if the government did not commit to extending the 10 per cent extra funding for crisis services it was allocated as a one-off in last year's budget.
She welcomed that funding, which was part of more than $800,000 split between crisis support and education programs, as "timely" given the jump in demand that followed a string of high-profile family violence deaths in the ACT last year.
But she said the number of requests for help had continued to rise and, while the service had made changes to its triage and prioritisation processes to speed up responses and alleviate pressure, crisis workers often struggled to meet demand.
"The extra 10 per cent [funding] has meant that we have been able to employ an extra staff member each day to deal with the increase in the last financial year – if it is not ongoing or re-offered, or indeed increased to truly reflect the need to meet the demand, I am not sure how we will cope."
The problem was highlighted earlier this month in a Women's Centre for Health Matters report, which highlighted a huge spike in demand from ACT victims was overwhelming support services' capacity to respond.
Ms Wilson believed there was no sign requests for help would diminish; instead she expected they would significantly increase, particularly as the Coalition government launched a confronting, $30 million anti-domestic violence ad campaign on Sunday.
"Targeted awareness campaigns to help change the culture of gender inequity and violence against women are crucial and very welcome – what we need alongside that is the funds and resources provided to the other parts: early intervention, crisis and long-term supports as a co-ordinated approach to address this issue in our community.
"It is also irresponsible and sets people up for failure if we make them aware of what constitutes domestic and family violence, encourage them to seek support and for the support services to not then be able to adequately respond."
Ms Wilson said the Victorian government's pledge to spend half a billion dollars over two years to reduce family violence ensured front-line services would be bolstered in the wake of the state's family violence royal commission findings.
She called on the ACT government to make a similarly bold commitment by funding key recommendations from an extraordinary meeting of the Domestic Violence Prevention Council last year, one of which was to provide adequate services to meet demand.
"We hope that the 2016-16 ACT Budget announcement will see some of these commitments come to fruition with some much needed funding and resources to implement the recommendations," Ms Wilson said.
On top of last year's funding boost for anti-domestic violence support services and programs, the ACT government strengthened laws that made it easier to prosecute domestic violence offenders.
If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic or family violence, call the ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Service 24-hour crisis line on 6280 0900. In an emergency, call 000.