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News and Events

WHAV Welcomes State Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women and Children

5 October 2012: ‘This plan correctly places equal weight on preventing violence from happening, holding perpetrators to account, and supporting women and children who experience violence’, WHAV Convenor Dr Robyn Gregory said.

‘The whole-of-government commitment outlined in the plan, coupled with shared community responsibility, is essential for achieving the vision for women and children to live free from violence in Victoria.’

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New family violence funding packages announced

Victoria Police crime statistics released on 3 September showed a 23 per cent increase in the rate of family violence incident reports since the previous year and a 45 per cent increase in the number of charges laid.

The second edition of the Victoria Police Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence was launched in December 2010. This renewed commitment to improving police responses to family violence is partly responsible for the increase in demand. More calls to police may mean the messages are getting through: violence against women and children is unacceptable and your call will be taken seriously.

However, the magnitude of the increase has a direct impact on Women’s Health West’s capacity to respond. Crisis referrals to WHW increased by 26 per cent from the previous year. This is a combination of increased police referrals and women seeking services directly. Such a dramatic increase was difficult to manage and forced us to redirect funds away from case management to our intake service. This shift of resources toward a crisis approach impacts directly on our ability to assist women and children to navigate the complex legal and other service systems that provide security and aid healing and recovery.

As a result, WHW welcomed the recent Victorian Government announcement of $16 million over four years to respond to the increased demand for family violence services. This will alleviate some of the immediate pressure.

The funding includes $9.25 million for an additional 1,200 support packages for women and children per year over the next four years. Women’s Health West is one of five metropolitan and eight rural family violence outreach services facing similar exponential increases in demand. Across Victoria, family violence incidents rose by 10,000 last year. Domestic Violence Victoria, the peak body for family violence services in Victoria, has described the funding as a ‘down payment’ and is clear that future funding commitments are required to respond to continual increases in demand.

Victoria Police Recidivist Strategy

Victoria Police defines recidivism as ‘events where police have recorded family violence against individuals or in locations on three occasions or more within the preceding twelve-month period’. As a result, three or more reports referring to a particular victim, perpetrator or location are described as recidivism.

WHW undertook a small project to explore the role of women’s services in responding to recidivism. Overseas research highlights the need to hold men accountable for their violence rather than focusing on removing victims from the violent situation. It may be easier to remove a victim than confront a perpetrator, but this approach means that victims bear the responsibility for the violence. WHW requires a minimum of one full time worker to work directly with women and collaboratively with police and men’s programs.

image of police carMelton police recently introduced a family violence unit and its role will be to respond to recidivism. We expect other police family violence units across the region to follow their lead.

Learning more than English

Congolese Financial Literacy Program

In July and August 2012, Women’s Health West partnered with Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre to deliver a financial literacy program to Congolese women. The program was held at Spectrum in Sunshine, a venue familiar to Congolese women dispersed throughout the west.

Over six weeks, seven women met to explore topics derived from community consultations including budgeting, bills, Centrelink, banking and mortgages. Facilitators developed an understanding of how money systems work in the Congo and the challenges associated with negotiating the way things are done in Australia.

For instance, women spoke of collective or group savings systems, a method used both in the Congo and in Australia where each month every member of the group contributes a set amount (e.g. $500) the sum of which is allocated to each group member in turn. This enables women to save more and have a ‘lump sum’ to be able to purchase big items. However workers or banks have asked women why they suddenly have more money and this has had a negative impact on other parts of their life. It was useful for the participants to talk with workers from Centrelink and various banks about this problem and work on some solutions.

‘People only learn English, but it’s important to learn about day-to-day life, like paying bills.’
Participant, Congolese FLP

A key part of the program involved linking women with service providers who could help them with specific concerns. Services included Consumer Affairs, the Sheriff’s Office, Bendigo Bank, the Smith Family and WISE Employment. Women felt far more confident to access these service providers once they had met the workers in person. It was safer and more familiar than going to an impersonal institution. Many immediately made follow up appointments to eliminate communication difficulties they were likely to experience if they tried to make an appointment at a later date.

Sharing lunch was important too. Each week one of the women cooked traditional Congolese food; eating together provided a great opportunity for participants to talk informally with presenters and ask lots of questions. It also meant presenters and the project workers could learn more about Congolese culture. This financial literacy program has been a rich learning experience for participants, presenters and project workers combined.

We plan to run this successful program in 2012-2013 with different groups of newly arrived women according to settlement needs. Beyond that date the impact of cuts to the integrated health promotion program leave the future of this program in doubt. For more information please contact us on 9689 9588.

By Kirsten Campbell, Health Promotion Worker, first published whw news ( Ed3, 2012)

Our Community, Our Rights

Hope for a New Beginning

The first phase of Our Community, Our Rights (OCOR) – comprising human rights based advocacy workshops, and project development support with South Sudanese women in the west – is complete.

Participants engaged in a sequence of seven human rights based advocacy workshops on topics including racism and discrimination, health, rights at work and in education and safety. WHW then supported them to plan their own human rights based advocacy project on a topic they identified as important to their community.

As a result OCOR participants developed Hope for a New Beginning a project designed to work with the Equatorian South Sudanese community to understand the problem of violence against women and begin to identify solutions. The project group consulted extensively with community leaders to gain their support and then ran a day-long workshop on Saturday 25 August at Footscray Uniting Church.

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