In the same week seven people died in a murder-suicide, the budget completely failed us.

There are a number of questions surrounding the Margaret River shooting that we will never have real answers to.

What we do know for sure is that on the morning of Friday May 11, police discovered the bodies of three adults and four children at a farm in Osmington, south of Perth. Bodies that have been identified as Peter Miles, 61, his wife Cynda, 58, their daughter Katrina, 35, and her four children Taye, 13, Rylan, 12, Ayre, 10, and Kayden, eight.

Police have also confirmed they are not looking for other suspects at this time and that the guns found on the property were registered to Peter Miles. There is the implication, though not the absolute confirmation, that Miles shot and killed his family in a murder-suicide, in an act of extreme family violence.

While we may never have concrete answers to the many questions still lingering from this horrific event, questions around the exact pattern of events that took place that night and the mental health state of those involved, we do have a solid answer to one burning, current question.

Is Australia doing enough to combat family and domestic violence?

The answer, sadly, is no.

This year the government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) compiled comprehensive data that showed our country is indeed in the midst of a family violence crisis, a crisis that appears to be both evolving and increasing.

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And when you take a look at the topics dominating our news cycle this week, the tragedy surrounding the Margaret River shooting and the unveiling of the 2018-19 budget, it’s clear that when it comes to lifting Australians out of the throes of family violence, we are not prepared to put our money where our mouth is.

Family violence refers to violence between family members as well as between current or former intimate partners, it can include acts of violence between a parent and a child or
between siblings.

While there is no hard and fast way to put an end to family violence it cannot be denied that it is a case where funding and the availability of  support and resources plays a key role in allowing people, particularly women who do not have their own means of financial support, to extricate themselves from dangerous situations.

The report also found that family violence was a leading cause of homelessness and that the problem had grown in the past five years. In fact, 72,000 women and 34,000 children sought homelessness services in 2016-17 due to family and domestic violence.

When your choices are either to stay in a violent situation or to live on the street, no amount of public awareness, including the sharing of social media placards or the wearing of white ribbons one day a year, will help you.

Of course we cannot assume that what happened to the Miles family was linked to the availability of funding or support, but what we do owe them and all Australian families is to take a closer look at the amount of  resources on offer.

We owe it to them to keep this conversation going on a national level, preventing it from falling from our minds until the next time a family violence tragedy takes up residence on the front page of our newspapers and across our social media feeds.

 Australian domestic and family violence campaigner Rosie Batty on what needs to change.

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The facts are that the 2018-19 Budget will provide $54.4 million in new funding for services for women affected by violence.

However, when you actually break that funding down, it equates to $6.7 million in 2018-19 to maintain funding for DV-alert, a national, accredited training program for community frontline workers such as teachers, early childhood educators, volunteers and medical practitioners. The Government will also provide $11.5 million over two years from 2018-19 for 1800RESPECT, a national counselling, information and referral service for all Australians that is currently responding to increased demand. The service targets sexual, domestic and family violence.

The remainder of this portion of the budget will go to addressing elder abuse and online safety.

While these are all valid causes worthy of a piece of the budget pie, it does mean that only a small portion of this money will go towards the dire and immediate plight of family abuse survivors.

Then, there are the sections of the proposed budget that seem downright ludicrous, when you look at other areas that are in need of funding.

In complete contrast to the needs of family violence survivors is the portion of the budget where the Government has pledged almost $49 million to commemorate the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s first voyage to Australia. This funding will go towards supporting events and exhibitions.

When you look at the level of support for these two different initiatives, you cannot help but feel that families in crisis have been left out in the cold. 

Because while training programs and counseling services are vital tools in the fight against family violence, what so many people in this predicament really need is financial support to lift them out of their situation and help them move into a safer life.

I say this as someone who grew up in a situation of family and domestic violence.

What would have helped my family during that time were not counselling services, awareness campaigns or statues of Captain Cook.

What would have helped us back then was access to safe, secure crisis accommodation for my mother and her four young children. What would have helped us were funds to buy last minute plane tickets to fly across the country and escape to another state where we would have the support of extended family. What would have made all the difference was access to funds to buy clothes and home-wares to replace what we were forced to leave behind, which was anything not tucked into the one suitcase we shared between the five of us.

Because when you’re actually attempting to escape family violence, you need funding and not just awareness to pull you out of danger.

This week seven people have died in a story that points toward an act of family violence, one that ended in an apparent murder-suicide. For this to happen at the same time that our budget has completely failed us, only makes us believe that this cycle of violence will never come to an end.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

If you would like support or information regarding suicide prevention you can always call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

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