Ballarat residents are being urged to speak out for those who may not have a voice of their own and report family violence.
A ground breaking police campaign highlights family violence as a community issue that residents should report. This comes as a leading family violence expert says radical cultural change is needed to break the cycle of abuse.
“Preventing family violence is about cultural change, therefore everyone in our community needs to be aware of what it is, the impact and how to play a part in preventing it,” Women’s Health Grampians chief Marianne Hendron said.
“Think of smoking – it was very acceptable and prevalent up to 20 years ago and now is not widely tolerated and accepted. Change is possible.”
Family violence remains a major concern for the Victorian community. Victoria Police and Neighbourhood Watch have released graphic leaflets urging people to report violence they witness.
Family incidents recorded by Victoria Police have increased markedly over the past five years, from 43,856 in 2011 to 74,385 in 2015.
Data shows an 8.4 per cent rise of family incidences in Ballarat and a 20.2 per cent rise in Moorabool between June 2015-16. Superintendent Andrew Allen said family violence remained one of the division’s top priorities.
“The data supports my premise that there is more confidence in people reporting incidents of family violence and that police are taking appropriate action as a result,” Superintendent Allen said.
“A significant percentage of these statistics include solved crime (arrests) rates.”
Superintendent Allen said local police had significantly increased their family violence unit from just two police in 2011 to a sergeant and six other ranks in 2016, but advocates maintain resources for agencies are stretched.
“Perpetrators of family violence are dealt with as criminal offenders and will continue to be put before the courts for offences against women and children as well as breaching any orders against them.”
Proactive policing and neighbourhood Watch convenor Leading Senior Constable Janine Walker said the leaflets detailing the campaign were part of a move aimed at showing the community their role in crime reduction.
“It is vital to make a phone call to report it to police. If you were in the same situation you would want it reported.”
Ballarat recorded 1736.6 family incident rates per 100,000 last financial year up from 1601.7 the year before. Ms Hendron said increased funding was needed for agencies and police to cope.
“I think the increase has resulted in agencies being under a lot of pressure and we certainly didn’t see support services increase by the same rates as reporting has done,” Ms Hendron said.
She said it was vital the community promoted an understanding of family violence. Ballarat Mayor Des Hudson has called on residents to speak out if they see or hear any type of violence.
“If they hear or see something we urge residents to be part of the community, to pick up the phone and have a voice for those that may not be able to have a voice themselves,” Cr Hudson said.