The Royal Commission into Family Violence released its full report on Wednesday, calling for an overhaul of Victoria’s family violence system. The commission made a total of 227 recommendations, spanning more than 1,900 pages.
The report was welcomed by family violence support groups and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews promised to implement all 227 recommendations.
One of the main recommendations was the creation of 17 safety hubs throughout Victoria. The hubs will act as a single entry point for people affected by family violence. They will perform risk assessments, provide access to specialised family violence services and arrange emergency accommodation.
Victoria Police deal with approximately one family violence incident every eight minutes. The report said the police and legal system are currently not equipped to meet the high level of demand. The commission called for greater training and prioritisation of family violence within Victoria Police. They also proposed that all family violence cases be heard in specialist courts within five years.
Many women involved in family violence situations are forced to uproot themselves and their children and seek safety in crisis accommodation or homeless shelters. The commission recommended a substantial expansion of ‘safe at home’ programs, where women and children remain in the family home and the perpetrator is removed instead.
One of the sections of the report detailed how faith-based communities can support people affected by family violence.
“These communities and organisations offer a vital opportunity to reach people who are affected by family violence, many of whom might not use formal family violence service pathways to seek help,” the report said.
“It is therefore important that faith-based communities address barriers to the disclosure, prevention of, or recovery from, family violence and make it clear that religion cannot be used by perpetrators and others to condone or excuse abusive behaviour.”
Over the past 13 months, the commission heard from a number of faith leaders, predominately from Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities. The report acknowledged the important role faith communities play in offering support networks for people affected by family violence.
“Along with friends, family members and work colleagues, ministers of religion feature among the groups of people identified as the most common source of support following a woman’s most recent physical assault by her cohabiting partner,” the report said.
However, the commission found that in some instances, faith leaders struggled to recognise and respond appropriately to family violence incidents. Some faith leaders also come from countries where the cultural understanding of gender roles differs from that in Australia. The stigma attached to seeking a divorce may risk exposing victims to further abuse by their family members. This barrier can force women into making a choice between their safety and their faith.
The commission recommended that the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship’s Multifaith Advisory Group and the Victorian Multicultural Commission, in partnership with women from faith communities, develop training packages on family violence and sexual assault for faith leaders and communities.
One of the church communities already active in tackling family violence is Keilor East Airport West Uniting Church. Last year, more than 200 people attended a ‘Say No to Family Violence’ forum organised by the church. The event featured a range of speakers including Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria and raised $1,060 for the Luke Batty Foundation.
This year, the congregation will be hosting a morning tea with Fiona Richardson, Minister for Women and Prevention of Family Violence on Tuesday 17 May at 10:30am. A report on the findings of the royal commission will be presented.
If you would like to attend the morning tea, contact church elders Barbara Dorward (9338 3074) or Maxine Knight (9374 3124).