Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has vowed to overhaul a “broken” family violence support system after a report called for sweeping reforms to prevent and respond to the problem.
After 13 months and 25 days of hearings, the Royal Commission into Family Violence has given 227 recommendations to the State Government and said all parts of the domestic violence system were overwhelmed.
Mr Andrews said the State Government would implement all of the report’s recommendations.
“We’ll overhaul our broken support system from the bottom up,” he said.
“We’ll punish the perpetrators of this violence, we’ll listen to the people who survive it and we will change the culture that created it.”
Mr Andrews said last year 37 Victorians had been murder by a family member.
“We failed every single one of them,” he said.
“Family violence is a silent crime deployed by cowards behind closed doors.
“It’s Australia’s number one law and order issue but it’s taken us too long to admit it.”
The commission recommended the creation of 17 support and safety hubs to act as one-stop-shops for family violence victims.
The hubs would act as a single entry point for victims and would perform risk assessments, provide assistance and arrange emergency accommodation.
“There must be clear entry points into, and pathways between different parts of the system, to make the experience of seeking help as supportive and seamless as possible,” the report said.
The commission also called for changes to Victoria Police structure to make family violence a core business.
It said police, the courts and support services were not equipped to meet the high level of demand, and that efforts to hold perpetrators to account were grossly inadequate.
The commission’s recommendations included a revised risk assessment framework, to identify the risk of family violence as low, medium or high.
Report finds ‘serious limitations’ to state’s approach
The commission found Victoria has been at the forefront of family violence policy, and parts of the response remained sound.
But it said there were “serious limitations in the existing approach”.
“We are not responding adequately to the scale and impact of the harm caused by family violence,” the report said.
The commission focused heavily on interaction between family violence victims, police and the court system.
It called for family violence education programs for police, and for a trial to use body cameras to collect statements and evidence at family violence scenes.
It has also asked the Government to consider whether police should be given the power to issue family violence orders in the field.
The report called for specialist Family Violence Courts to be established across the state, with facilities to access family violence service providers.
It asked the Government to introduce legislation so all family violence matters could be heard in such a specialist court within the next five years.
There should also be dedicated funding for perpetrator programs, and better monitoring of attendance at men’s behaviour change programs, the report said.
The report said within a year, family violence leave should be a paid entitlement for full-time employees and an unpaid entitlement to casual employees.
Families told not enough room in crisis accommodation
Justice Marcia Neave, who led the inquiry, said the commission had listened to the stories of survivors and specialists.
She spoke of one victim she called “Susan” who escaped with her four children after years of “horrific” abuse by her husband.
“It began shortly after they married and it escalated when she became pregnant, when he kicked her in the stomach,” Justice Neave said.
“Susan believed she had sheltered her children from the violence, until one of her son’s teachers drew to her attention the fact that one of the children wasn’t speaking at school.”
Justice Neave said Susan and her four children were homeless for about a year and slept in a car park close to the children’s school.
“They parked there because she didn’t have much money for petrol and she wanted to make sure her children went to school and they went to school every single day of the year that they were living in that public park,” she said.
She said Susan was offered some accommodation, but only on the basis she could take two of her children because there was not enough room for four.
“They stayed, living in their car and in a tent for some of the time,” Justice Neave said.
“Ultimately, she was helped by a chaplain at her children’s school.”
The Commission said it wanted respectful relationships education training in government schools from prep to year 12.
Among the key proposals is a call to establish an independent family violence agency to oversee how the recommendations are implemented.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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