Violence Prevention. Multiple Disadvantage

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1 Violence Prevention A ll forms of violence are a violation of fundamental human rights. Violence not only threatens the victim s physical health, housing security and mental wellbeing but with between 70 and 80 intimate partner homicides in Australia every year, domestic and family violence kills 1. Women and children exposed to violence are at greater risk of developing a range of health problems, and are more likely to report poorer physical health overall and engage in practices that are harmful to their health. Domestic and family violence is also intergenerational. Many children exposed to family and domestic violence will grow up to become either the victims or perpetrators of violence 2. And while family and domestic violence cuts across socio-economic groups, it is reported at higher rates among disadvantaged Queenslanders. At an estimated cost of $2.7 to $3.2 billion per annum to the Queensland economy, domestic and family violence is a serious issue in public health 3. Direct costs include services to support women and children affected by violence and bring perpetrators to justice. Indirect costs include lost employment and productivity, and the human costs that impact on individuals and diminish social capital 4. This means improving responses to violence now will reduce social exclusion and the social and financial costs associated with violence in Queensland. The task for policy makers in this area is to reduce the incidence of all forms of violence through providing for more accessible, integrated services, filling in gaps in the service system and increasing primary prevention and early intervention programs. Multiple Disadvantage Some Queenslanders are far more likely to suffer poverty and social exclusion. And the effects are multiplied when individuals and families belong to more than one group. QCOSS recognises the serious disadvantage faced by: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities People in rural and remote communities Culturally and linguistically diverse communities People with a disability Young people Older people Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities Violence against women is rooted in historically unequal power relations between men and women... [A]ll forms of violence against women seriously violate and impair or nullify the enjoyment by women of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and constitute a major impediment to the ability of women to make use of their capabilities... [W]omen s poverty and lack of empowerment, as well as their marginalization resulting from their exclusion from social policies and from the benefits of sustainable development, can place them at increased risk of violence United Nations Resolution 61/143: Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against Women 5

2 Key Issues QCOSS members and stakeholders link ongoing and increasing violence in Queensland communities to significant gaps in services, including a lack of behaviour change programs for perpetrators, a lack of court support, and a lack of resources to support and develop more integrated responses 6. The key areas needing attention are detailed below: While domestic and family violence affects all communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are over represented in Queensland statistics on family and domestic violence. For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 35 times more likely to be hospitalised due to intimate partner violence 7. There are not enough safe houses for women and children escaping violence, especially in rural and remote communities. Research consistently shows access to safe houses impacts on a woman s decision to leave a violent relationship. Costs, location, hours of operation and concerns about lack of anonymity are also barriers for women in accessing services 8. Perpetrator programs. Although a general lack in these services was reported state wide, in some rural and remote communities there are no behaviour change programs available at all, meaning perpetrators are less likely to adopt positive change in their relationships. This impacts on the whole community as the cycle of violence continues. Family violence is a factor in many child protection cases. The Commission for Children and Young People reports that 39% of notifications to Child Safety also relate to domestic and family violence. This highlights the need for integrated responses to family violence, family support and preventative child safety responses. Exposure to violence in the family increases children s risk of mental health, behavioural and learning difficulties in the short term, and increases the likelihood of the child either becoming the victim or perpetrator of violence in their adult life 9. Unfortunately many government departments and community service organisations in parts of Queensland lack the resources needed to build stronger links and more integrated responses to violence. Refugee communities are in increasing need. For example, one Gold Coast service reports 30% of local domestic violence takes place in CALD communities, with 54% of that violence occurring in families from a refugee background. Often supporting those affected by domestic violence from CALD backgrounds is complicated by VISA status that disqualify them from accessing income and housing support and results in victims returning to the perpetrators of violence. These women require specialist services and specialist support in accessing mainstream services. Domestic and family violence is a major contributor to homelessness 10. Family violence is the primary cause of children s homelessness and children make up a substantial group of supported accommodation service users. Sexual violence. National statistics say one in five Australian women report being a victim of sexual violence in their lifetime 11. However, sexual assault is reported at a consistently lower rate in crime statistics than in research studies, and the reported rates of sexual assault are comparatively lower in Queensland than in other Australian states. The actual rate may be closer to one in three. Women say they are reluctant to report sexual violence to the police and access the justice system because of the difficulty of the legal process and the low conviction rate of perpetrators of these crimes 12. Awareness and attitude are also issues: many people hold false ideas about sexual violence. Too often, blame for rape and sexual assault is shifted from the offender to the victim P age Violence Prevention

3 Elder Abuse. Older people are often more reluctant to report violence against themselves and exposure to violence in the family context. It is estimated that on average, 5% of older people experience some form of abuse at a cost of approximately $97 million to Queensland each year 14. In 2009, QCOSS members in some regions of Queensland cited elder abuse as either an emerging, or a growing problem in their communities and it is clear that there are significant gaps in research and community and professional awareness of the problem 15. Recognising Progress The release of the Queensland Government Strategy to Reduce Domestic and Family Violence (For our Sons and Daughters). Several initiatives under this strategy are significant progress including: Domestic Violence Death Review Panel to be delivered in March 2010; the introduction of safety upgrades programs for Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Townsville; review of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989; and the trial of an enhanced integrated response model in Rockhampton. The release of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women being implemented through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). A number of initiatives aiming towards more consistent responses from the justice system across jurisdictions, including the establishment of a national register of domestic violence protection orders so that interstate orders do not need to be registered at court in a receiving state ; and the investigation by the Australian Law Reform Commission of the interaction between family law, domestic violence and child protection law and practices. The introduction of a Draft Bill to amend the Queensland Criminal Code to provide a partial defence, reducing murder to manslaughter, for victims of seriously abusive domestic relationships who kill their abusers. Parliamentary review of alcohol related violence. QCOSS Recommendations Implement, properly fund and evaluate the Queensland Government Strategy to Reduce Domestic and Family Violence , with strategies to target each of the groups at risk identified in this paper and ensure that it will: Prioritise culturally appropriate responses to violence Ensure all Queensland Government funded organisations are supported to become more accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and enhance investment in community-led responses by Indigenous organisations and leaders to address family violence within Indigenous communities. Increase investment in community education and engagement strategies for CALD communities. Currently a Brisbane based service is the only service in Queensland specifically funded to respond to issues of violence within CALD communities and provide direct support services to women and their children from non-english speaking Violence Prevention Page 3

4 backgrounds who are victims of domestic and/or sexual violence. This service is not resourced to provide a state-wide service and does not currently receive specific funding for prevention and community education activities on issues related to domestic and family violence in CALD communities. Improve the cultural competence of workers in the legal system and those providing support to people who have experienced all forms of violence including family, domestic, sexual and elder abuse. Translate information materials into the main language groups in Queensland including Auslan and Braille. Expand specialist services to work with women from refugee backgrounds and build the capacity of mainstream organisations across Queensland to work with these communities. Expand primary prevention and early intervention strategies We need to emphasise investment in primary prevention we can t just keep responding We need a broad-based cultural shift, across the whole of society, to reject tolerance for all forms of violence Heather Nancarrow, Director, Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research. Increase investment in primary prevention strategies that target all of Queensland s diverse communities and are developed in consultation with them. Evaluate the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs currently being implemented in Queensland schools to identify the number that explicitly address violence and monitor their effectiveness over time. Expand school-based counseling and support programs for children and young people affected by domestic violence. Fund connected support services Invest in cross-sector/agency training on domestic and family violence to foster consistent practice frameworks across agencies and a shared understanding of the problem. We should expect workers responding to domestic and family violence (a dangerous business for clients and workers) to meet a bench-mark of skill, best established through attaining accreditation. Invest in a workforce development and interagency networking strategy for the sector and strengthen mainstream capacity to identify and respond to the specific types of violence addressed in this paper. Expand existing integrated response models that incorporate case coordination and support people from crisis, through transition and into long term, sustainable situations. These work, but in many cases are under resourced or affected by time limited funding. Maintain the diversity and specialist nature of the service system. Sexual assault services, for example, require specialised expertise, and operate most effectively when the needs of specific groups (e.g. CALD, people with a disability) are met within approachable, non-stigmatising service delivery settings where women feel safe. 4 P age Violence Prevention

5 Improve accommodation options for victims of violence Build more safe houses for remote indigenous communities as a matter of priority. Ensure the review of SAAP services due for completion in early 2010 covers accessibility for older women, women with a disability, refugee groups, and ATSI, CALD and LGBT women. Increased support for short and long term accommodation needs, including support for options for women to remain safely in their homes if they choose, and specific funding for services for accompanying children. Ensure consistency in the One Social Housing System (OSHS) and review application processes for victims of domestic and family violence. Increase perpetrator programs Ensure Queensland participates in the upcoming development and trialing of behaviour change programs delivered in prisons under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women. Fund best practice models of working with perpetrators of violence and ensure that all of Queensland s diverse communities have access to these programs and that culturally relevant models for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are expanded as a matter of priority. QCOSS stakeholders with extensive experience in Queensland s remote communities expressed support for expanding men s time out houses in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. Strengthen responses from the justice system Develop a best-practice family and domestic violence specialist court model for Queensland and expand support for current Queensland trials. Review the underlying issues and causes of the low incidence of reporting and low conviction rates for sexual violence in Queensland. Violence Prevention Page 5

6 1 J. Dearden and W. Jones. (2009) Homicide in Australia: National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report, Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. 2 M. Flood & L. Fergus. (2008) An Assault on Our Future: The impact of violence on young people and their relationships. White Ribbon Foundation, Australia. 3 Queensland Government, (2009) For our sons and daughters: A Queensland Government strategy to reduce domestic and family violence , p2. 4 United Nations Resolution 61/143: Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against Women. Retrieved October 15, 2009 from 5 United Nations Resolution 61/143: Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against Women. Retrieved October 15, 2009 from 6 Queensland Council of Social Service. (2009), Social Policy Forum Report 2009: Views from Queensland s Community Services Sector, Accessed 12 October 2009, 7 F. Al-Yaman et. al. (2006). Family violence among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Cat. no. IHW 17). Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra. 8 Benevolent Society. (2009), Moving Forward: Women s Journey after Leaving an Abusive Relationship, Australia. Retrieved 30 September Laing l.(2000) Progress, trends and challenges in Australian responses to domestic violence, issues paper. Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse, Canberra. 10 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2007) Homeless People in SAAP, Supported Accommodation Assistance Program National Data Collection Agency Annual Report , (Cat. No. HOU 156). 11 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2005) Personal Safety Survey, ABS Cat. No , Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. 12 Ibid. 13 Brisbane Rape and Incest Survivors Support Centre, Factsheet on Sexual Violence. Retrieved 1 October 2009 from 14 L. McDermott. (September 2009). Abuse of Older People, Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research Reader, 8:1. 15 Ibid. This paper is part of QCOSS s policy platform that contains over 20 policy papers. Go to for other papers including Mental Health, Violence Prevention, and Social Inclusion. Ground floor, 20 Pidgeon Close (off Beesley St), West End Qld 4101 PO Box 3786, South Brisbane Qld 4101 Ph: (07) Fax: (07) Toll Free Website: 6 P age Violence Prevention

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