Fresh calls for radical family violence reform

ALARMING: Family violence data obtained from Ballarat's Berry Street Family Violence Service reveals almost 700 new cases of abuse were reported to Victoria Police across the region from July 1 to October 31 this year.

ALARMING: Family violence data obtained from Ballarat's Berry Street Family Violence Service reveals almost 700 new cases of abuse were reported to Victoria Police across the region from July 1 to October 31 this year.

HOLDING perpetrators accountable and keeping mothers and children together must be the focus of any radical reforms coming out of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.

Berry Street Family Violence Service senior manager Gayle Correnti said specialist family violence workers on the frontline were being inundated by requests for help.

Ms Correnti said a holistic approach including linking services between the Department of Human Services, Child and Family Services and Victoria Police was instrumental in breaking the cycle. On the ground, the outreach service provides 24-hour crisis care to 13 Local Government Areas across the region and is manned by only six and a half workers.

“At the moment we have to focus on the pointy end because you have to deal with the highest risk first,” Ms Correnti said. “The consistent increase in demand far exceeds the resources to intervene given the numbers of women and children requiring immediate protection.”

Ms Correnti said to advocate for women and children at risk there needed be a greater focus on holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. Toughening of existing laws, early intervention, case management of perpetrators and diversity in education programs for high-risk men was critical.

“High risk men also require monitoring by police and different interventions from community funded services,” she said.“We need to have an absolute focus on the person that is doing the harm not the person who is at risk only because quite often that perpetrator could go on to hurt multiple women.”

Ms Correnti said many high-risk men who have been imprisoned for assaulting their partners nominated to move back in with their victims after they have served their sentences. Often women were too afraid to say no.

“A lot of these men chose not to come out of prison on parole,” Ms Correnti said. “They don’t want to be let out then because they know they will be monitored.”

Ms Correnti said funding into therapeutic programs for children and their mothers was critical in keeping families together in Ballarat.

 “Children don’t have the language to say how they feel or explain what is happening around them,” she said. “It all comes down to their behaviour. There are so many complex behaviours that a child can display from being extremely violent and disruptive to completely withdrawing and believing they are unlovable. By doing intensive work with mothers and children we are to help them make sense of the impact of violence on their relationship which strengthens the bond between mother and child.”