THOSE who sling off at Dandenong, as being a more socially challenged area than ‘beautiful’ Bass Coast, might need to think again.
According to figures produced by the State Government last week, after it released its 63-page submission to the new Royal Commission into Family Violence, Bass Coast came out as having a worse problem with family violence than the Greater Dandenong area.
And it’s almost on a par with Frankston.
In fact, apart from Frankston, there isn’t a Melbourne suburban area with a bigger problem than Bass Coast which recorded 1721.6 family violence incidents per 100,000 population to the end of December last year.
And the increase in reported incidents has been frightful over the past five years, up almost 120 per cent over that period.
It’s in regional Victoria where the biggest problem exists, per head of population, and the Latrobe region in Gippsland has the worst record in the state with 2835.6 incidents of family violence, per 100,000 people.
Most of those incidents involve violence by men against their female partners or former female partners.
In his foreword to the State Government’s submission last week, Premier Daniel Andrews has acknowledged that victims of family violence are poorly supported, that rural and regional areas are over-represented and that there’s an urgent need for change.
“The government has identified a fragmented system that results in poor outcomes for the people it is meant to assist,” Mr Andrews said.
“This is especially so for high-risk groups and specific cohorts including Aboriginal people, people from culturally and linguistic
ally diverse (CALD) backgrounds… and people living in regional and rural areas.”
The report goes further in identifying the specific problems in regional areas:
“In 2013-14, the 10 local government areas with the highest rates of Victoria Police family violence incident reports per 100,000 population were located outside metropolitan Melbourne. The higher incidence of family violence in some rural and regional locations is borne out by additional research into the prevalence of family violence in rural Victoria.
“Recent research indicates that people living in rural and regional areas face particular obstacles to accessing support and justice, including geographic and social isolation, challenges with maintaining anonymity and privacy and limited availability of services.
“The research also found that women had increased fears for their safety where their abuser had access to a firearm.
“Gun ownership rates are higher in rural and regional areas than in metropolitan areas.”
The government’s submission to the Royal Commission has highlighted many problem areas, honing in on one witnessed in the court system locally, that of “weak legal consequences that fail to hold perpetrators to account”.
“Women and children are still dying, despite having intervention orders,” the government says in its submission.
“We need to strengthen our legal response to perpetrators so that it is clear to people doing the wrong thing that the community condemns their behaviour and that they will be held to account.
“Family violence intervention orders are breached too often, and victims and stakeholders feel that penalties are not matched to the severity of the perpetrator’s behaviour.
“The Coroners’ Court has found that while intervention orders are crucial to victim safety, they do not always result in violence ending.
“Concerns have been raised about the consistency of responses to breaches of family violence intervention orders, family violence safety notices and counselling orders.
“We need to consider ways to make perpetrators more accountable for their actions, including stricter monitoring and tougher laws.
“We also need to make sure that perpetrators understand their obligations under intervention orders.”
The government notes that there are no new solutions to violence by men against women but acknowledges that while they need to better utilise health, counselling and behavioural change programs, such programs are sparsely provided in regional areas.
The Royal Commission is already underway and recently concluded the last of 38 community consultation sessions, attended by more than 800 people.
Public hearings will begin in July and will include local stakeholders, experts and representatives from government departments.
The Commission, headed by the Hon Marcia Neave, will report back to the government in February 2016.
“For too long society has turned its back to the terror that takes place in our homes,” Mr Andrews said.
“The system is broken and our submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence calls for an overhaul.”
Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, Fiona Richardson said the government’s submission had frankly identified the weaknesses in the current system and was committed to making a difference.
“There are clear gaps that need addressing, including weak legal consequences that fail to hold perpetrators to account and services that can’t support everyone who needs them.”