DHJP have cemented themselves as recognised advocates against family violence, working with many victim-survivors of many different types of family violence to try and fix a broken system.
Despite $3.5 billion spent on family violence since the Royal Commission in 2016, family violence is only going up. DHJP want to look at alternative ways to stop the scourge.
– Specialist family violence courts – DHJP were successful in achieving funding in the 2021-22 Budget for family violence courts to be built, including in Geelong. We are yet to see construction start due to planning issues, but the money has been allocated. These courts include things like dedicated liaison officers, coloured walls and toys for kids and separate entries for victims to offenders.
– Tendency evidence – DHJP are looking at ways for the courts to recognise a prior history of family violence in prosecutions or murders of current partners. Family violence is a pattern of behaviour, but can be – and often is – across multiple victims and yet we can’t use prior offending in cases due to potentially prejudicing a jury or a decision-maker. Whilst we recognise this issue, DHJP thinks we should be able to use some tendency evidence in court.
– Family violence in the presence of a child – Stuart is pursuing an offence called ‘family violence in the presence of a child’ with stronger penalties, including a 6-month minimum sentence (rather than the current 3 months) and mandatory men’s behaviour change program attendance. This recognises that family violence in front of children is damaging to them and increases their changes of being negatively involved with the legal system drastically.
– Men’s Behaviour Change Programs – with wait times of between 6 and 9 months for MBCPs in some areas, we need more investment URGENTLY. We need to look at innovative ways to deliver these programs including:
- Under 25s only program – this is potentially a better way of encouraging younger men who are not yet ingrained in a system of family violence and who want to change. Sometimes being in classes with 50+ year old men who have been court ordered for the third or fourth time can be discouraging to younger attendees.
- Outreach-style MBCP – Stuart has asked the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence to look into (and fund) a pilot for an outreach service. It would work by having a social worker attend acute family violence incidents (or the police cells where there has been an arrest) and work to engage the perpetrator ‘in the moment’. These are usually times where the perpetrator is receptive to help. If not, it’s a great way to refer them to services.
– Better communication of what domestic violence is – DHJP have made it clear that the current advertising campaign by the Government is not working and it needs to have better cut-through. Family violence is not just calling someone names. It includes coercive control and we should be communicating that those behaviours aren’t ok.
– Crisis accommodation for victims – regional Victoria is undergoing a huge rental crisis. There are almost no rentals in some part of the Western region and therefore house prices are increasing. This means that there are fewer jobs, limited growth and of course, there are limited places for women and children to go when they are fleeing family violence. We need more housing in these areas as a matter of urgency.