Family violence services celebrate extra officers for Ballarat

More specially-trained domestic violence police will arrive in Ballarat from May, as family violence services deal with a flood of cases. 

Fourteen new police officers were announced for the city yesterday, with ten specialised detectives joining the city’s Family Violence Investigation Unit (FVIU). 

Three officers will be deployed to the Ballarat police service area, with one additional officer allocated to the Crime Investigation Unit.

Berry Street senior manager of family violence Denise O’Dowd welcomed the additional police resources. She said they had seen a “substantial increase” in women and children seeking assistance with domestic violence in Ballarat. 

“The demand is very intense and it’s critical we respond to family violence situations in a timely manner,” Ms O’Dowd said. 

People are talking more about family violence and actually presenting to services, following media coverage and the Royal Commission into Family Violence. It’s now a focus, that’s why we’re seeing that flow on effect.

Denise O'Dowd, Berry Street

Domestic violence referrals to Berry Street in Ballarat from police were 2369 in 2016/17, up from 1564 reported cases in 2013/14.

Ballarat-based inspector Dan Davison said assisting in family violence cases made up an “absolute majority” of police work. 

“It’s not just a matter of turning up and going to that job, we also have to deal with victims on an ongoing basis and make sure they’re completely supported,” he said. 

The new cops are among 825 additional officers to be deployed across Victoria.

The number of men being charged for breaching family violence orders spiked in Ballarat for the 2016/17 financial year, up 215 cases from the financial year before.

“[FVIU] looks at a model of perpetrator intervention, and how we can assist these offenders to not reoffend,” Inspector Davison said. 

Central Highland Integrated Family Violence System chair Marianne Hendron said ten new officers would help with integrate different services across health, government and legal. 

“They’ll form part of a system that is going to better support victims, and make perpetrators more accountable and direct them to the services they need,” she said. 

The positions won’t be directly supporting children, but they will be supporting families, and the impact on children is something of grave concern.

Central Highland Integrated Family Violence System chair Marianne Hendron

More than 300 uniformed officers are being allocated to areas with the highest need for policing services in growth areas such as Geelong, Wyndham and Melton.