Family violence risk is heightened during the coronavirus pandemic as victims and perpetrators are forced to spend more time together in the context of isolation and quarantine.
Ballarat and region specialist family violence services want everyone to know support is available during this health crisis and everyone in the community has a role to play to support people at risk.
The leadership of Berry Street Western and WRISC Family Violence Support is sending four key messages to the community:
- Services are open for business and are working together to respond to the expected increase in demand during this pandemic. You can call WRISC Family Violence Support on 5333 3666 during business hours or Berry Street Western on 5331 3558 24 hours, seven days a week, for support.
- Everyone has a responsibility to ask the question, 'are you safe at home?'. The community has to be generally aware and support people within their sphere of influence. It has to be a whole of community response.
- The Central Highlands Integrated Family Violence Committee is working on a regional plan to respond to expected increase in demand across the region and the partner agencies. The plan will understand the capacity of each agency and how agencies can work together to support victim survivors during this time by pooling resources together.
- If men or others who use violence are committed to changing their behaviour for the safety of their family, they can contact the Men's Referral Service on 1300 766 491.
Berry Street Western senior manager family violence Denise O'Dowd said Berry Street had experienced an increase in calls to its after hours family violence support service.
"People are already isolated and at risk and now the further isolation increases the risk for them further," she said.
"We have added it in to our risk assessment as a factor, because people are already isolating or they have got the virus that will heighten their risk."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Sunday $150 million would be provided to support Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence due to the fallout from coronavirus.
According to the federal government, Google is seeing the highest magnitude of searches for domestic violence help in the past five years, with an increase of 75 per cent.
It is unsure whether the funding would flow through to family violence support agencies in Ballarat.
WRISC Family Violence Support chief executive Libby Jewson said she would welcome funding for regional specialist family violence services.
"We are expecting a spike in demand but we also have to change the way we respond," she said. "We are all learning how to do that in this space."
Many services are trialing online or phone-support based strategies.
Ms O'Dowd said Berry Street was continuing a face-to-face response when required because the agency offered crisis accommodation and an after hours service.
Visit dvrcv.org.au/central-highlands-integrated-family-violence-committee for more resources.
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