Charles Sturt University (CSU) experts are optimistic that the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria can benefit women and families in regional Australia.
Social work and human services lecturers Dr Andreia Schineanu and Ms Robin Harvey in the CSU School of Humanities and Social Sciences in Wagga Wagga say addressing family and domestic violence needs a whole-of-government approach rather than relying on the role of small units or marginal short-term programs.
Dr Schineanu said, "Victoria has always been at the forefront when it comes to addressing family and domestic violence, so the Report and recommendations of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence also generally reflect the current picture in NSW.
"But it's important to note that NSW and most of the other states do not have the range of specialised protocols and shared codes of practice that Victoria does. This means that family and domestic violence cases are often treated in 'silos' by services to the detriment of client outcomes.
"Furthermore, community attitudes, particularly in rural regions, still blame the woman for staying and expect her to be the one to leave the family home, rather than holding the man responsible for his violence, and homelessness services cannot guarantee safe accommodation.
"Family and domestic violence is still seen as an individual problem rather than a reflection of community-wide attitudes and practices rooted in patriarchy and unequal power dynamics. Until these views are changed, family and domestic will continue to be an issue with far-reaching consequences," Dr Schineanu said.
Ms Harvey said the Royal Commission report provides a detailed examination of family violence in Victoria and makes a range of recommendations which, when funded and implemented, will create a strong and integrated approach to responding to family violence.
"Importantly, the report provides three clear elements for action," Ms Harvey said.
"It recommends a fully funded response system that connects all relevant agencies and services to ensure safety and support for the victims, who are mainly women and children. It provides for a service system to both work with perpetrators which necessarily holds them to account for their actions, and to prevent any escalation of their violence.
"Equally importantly, the recommendations also provide clear directions for early intervention and community-wide prevention. Prevention will, of course, be a long-term and community-wide effort aimed at changing the cultural attitudes that have enabled and maintained violence in families.
"While Victoria already has some elements of such a service system to build on, this report has high relevance nationally as well," Ms Harvey said.
Dr Schineanu said the service limitations found by the Royal Commission are similar in the rest of the country, but further exacerbated in regional areas, with services overwhelmed by the high number and complexity of cases being reported which means they are unable to be dealt with adequately.
"The federal government's recent cuts in funding have resulted in fewer specialist services available," Dr Schineanu said. "For example, 24-hour women's refuges now operate only during business hours, and are nonspecific homelessness service providers.
"Community and most service providers not directly involved in this field are not sufficiently knowledgeable or adequately trained or equipped to recognise and address the many forms of family and domestic violence.
"Responses to family and domestic violence are geared towards responding to the crisis of violence rather than prevention, early intervention, or recovery, and the needs of children in these situations are often ignored. Women are the ones expected to carry the burden for all the changes necessary to terminate the violent situation, while efforts to hold perpetrators accountable are inadequate.
"An effective response would focus on prevention and early intervention rather than just crisis response. It would focus on perpetrators rather than the victims, and would have a streamlined service delivery with no 'wrong door' policies in place," Dr Schineanu said.