By Matt Male
THE rate of domestic violence incidents in Bass Coast is 25 per cent higher per capita than the state
This alarming figure was revealed at last week’s shire meeting by Cr Bruce Kent, in his working life, the Station Commander at the San Remo police Station.
He seconded a motion, moved by Cr Michael Whelan in ‘Urgent Business’, aiming to prevent family violence in the shire.
But to do it, the council says it needs $600,000 from the State Government and more police.
It comes after the murder of Phillip Island mother-of-three Samantha Fraser, with the advocacy strategy called ‘Change for Sam’.
It outlines seven positions totalling $600,000 to improve services for domestic violence victims through Bass Coast Health, SalvoCare and Gippsland Women’s Health.
Cr Whelan said he brought up the motion on behalf of the community to address family violence.
“The considered view is that
Samantha experienced a service and support system that was stretched, and had gaps that need to be addressed,” he said on Wednesday at the Grantville Hall.
He said the motion was about women who don’t feel safe in their home and threatened by the person they thought they’d be building a life with together.
“It’s the woman who doesn’t feel safe walking home from work.
“It’s for the woman who has to leave a job in a small town because she’s being threatened with being killed by a former partner … and thinks he has the right to do that.
“These are the attitudes and inequalities that exist in our community that are wrong.”
Cr Whelan said the motion was also directed at men who think they have an ownership over their partner and need to know where they are every hour of the day.
He also wants to see an end to boys being “misguided”, and following in the shoes of abusive men.
The Island Ward councillor also spoke about aggression in sport and referenced an incident in AFL, which occurred earlier this year, without mentioning names.
“You’ve got a man who’s been playing top-grade football in Australia for a few years, who’s fully developed and who’s been working out in the gym for years.
“And who punches out an 18-year-old boy who’s playing in his first season of football. He gets suspended for eight weeks.
“He could’ve killed that man. It’s just not acceptable that we condone that.
“It’s not good enough and we all need to change. But we need to change ourselves, as men, we need to take a different approach.
“But we also need to make sure that we’re engendering that respect for women in our boys as they grow up.”
Cr Clare Le Serve praised the shire for completing the White Ribbon accreditation.
“The statistics that Cr Kent and Cr Whelan have raised is really very, very sad.
“It’s something we shouldn’t be proud of, but we should proud of the fact that we’re taking steps to hopefully change that, from an organisational perspective.”
Deputy mayor Cr Brett Tessari said more police were needed in the area to stop family violence.
“Until we break the cycle and get some extra policing down this way, and get the resources needed without taking them out of the funding we currently have, I don’t think we’re going to be able to work together to break the cycle.”
Lack of police
Cr Bruce Kent, a local police officer himself, labelled the shire as a “poor country area”.
“If we were in inner Melbourne, you would have concentrated family violence units made up of three or four police members who would go out to every family violence incident.
“Down here in Bass Coast, you may have one San Remo van that will go to the family violence incident. And if it’s a serious incident, they will be tied up for three or four hours back at the station doing paperwork.
“So half the shift, Bass Coast has no van working the San Remo area.
“You’re treated here like poor citizens.
“But you need to speak up and do something about this. The government needs to hear about it, the police force need to hear it.”
He said referral agencies in the area are overworked.
If they’re called following an incident, they will contact the victim and perpetrator.
“Unless they fit certain criteria, the referral agency will move onto the next incident.”
Cr Kent said police are regularly called out to incidents involving the same people.
“Until we get to the point where all parties, including the male, feel that they’re supported – we’re not going to break this cycle.”
He encouraged people to speak to their local MP.
He said one possible question would be ‘We keep on hearing in the news we’re getting 3000 extra police – where are they going?’
“Ask that question. Ask why we’re treated poorly down in the country areas.”
Family violence is the number one problem at the San Remo police station, he said.
The Change for Sam strategy was developed in collaboration with Phillip Island community members and service providers.