Families Australia: submission to the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committees’ Inquiry into Domestic Violence in Australia

(This is an extract of the full submission. Please contact Families Australia to request a copy of the full version)

Summary

Domestic violence is a major issue in Australian society covering a wide range of government policy areas and service systems, including health, mental health, housing, income support, child protection, education, and family support.  Currently, policy development and responses in relation to both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence are fragmented, not nationally consistent and remain largely ‘siloed” in separate policy and service sectors.

Families Australia recognises the efforts of all levels of government to prevent and effectively respond to domestic violence through the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 (the National Plan), and its Second Action Plan, Moving Ahead, launched in June 2014.  We endorse the six National Outcomes identified for all governments to deliver in the course of the implementation of the National Plan.  They are: communities are safe and free from violence; relationships are respectful; Indigenous communities are strengthened; services meet the needs of women and their children experiencing violence; justice responses are effective; and perpetrators stop their violence and are held to account.

While we strongly commend this important national initiative, we note areas in which the implementation of the National Plan might be strengthened. This submission will primarily address the inquiry’s Terms of Reference C, D and E, and will highlight: the need for increased attention to the impact of family violence on all members of a family, in particular, children, young people and grandparents, the need for greater emphasis on early intervention and prevention efforts in relation to family support, and the importance of Federal Government leadership in developing nationally coherent policy and service responses.

Recommendations

  • Continued focus on primary prevention through not only community awareness campaigns, but also community action campaigns, such as that being implemented through the Child Aware Local Initiatives under the National Framework to Protect Australia’s Children.
  • Greater attention to the impact of family violence on all family members in the development of programs and strategies addressing family violence.
  • Review of the guidelines for Special Child Care Benefit to broaden eligibility to include families in stress (not just families where there is reportable risk of abuse or neglect); if this is not possible because of legislative restrictions, then development of other extended means of access to free child care by families in stress.
  • Greater attention to the needs of children and young people and their needs to escape family violence in service development.
  • Adequate resourcing of legal assistance services, including specialist services for women, children and young people experiencing family violence, and for indigenous Australians.
  • Implementation of a national DVO scheme and removal of the presumption of shared parenting responsibility in family law practice.
  • Significantly increased availability of affordable housing for women and their children escaping family violence.
  • Adequate resourcing of services for women escaping family violence, including refuges.
  • Greater awareness of the needs of women, children and young people escaping family violence in the development of income support policy and delivery of income support payments.
  • Strengthening of national policy coherence in relation to the many policy areas involved in efforts to reduce family violence, with an agreed strategic approach that includes the needs of children as a priority.
  • Continued Federal Government support for investment in a national research agenda which includes investigation of the needs of children, young people and grandparents in relation to the incidence of family violence.
  • Federal Government leadership in developing an integrated, national cross-sectoral support system which delivers coordinated community responses to family violence.
  • Federal Government leadership in developing a national cross-sectoral national workforce training agenda focusing on family violence.

Continuation of Federal Government role in social housing, including oversight of homelessness services.

 

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Domestic Violence in Australia (October 2014)