The NSW Government deserves to be congratulated for yesterday's announcement of a $60 million package targeting perpetrators of domestic violence as well as additional funding for refuges.
On top of the $100 million announcement by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently, it's another sign that domestic violence is being taken seriously by all levels of government.
The Premier, Mike Baird, has rightly described domestic violence as a plague that needs to be eradicated, and strong measures supporting new police squads to tackle repeat and serious offenders, as well as calling them exactly what they are - serious criminals - sends the right message loud and clear.
Assistant Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said perpetrators would be treated the same as armed robbers and police would "sit off their house and pull them out of the pub" if necessary. It's another strong commitment from the Government, along with video cameras to record evidence at domestic violence scenes, to increase police powers. NSW police are regularly reported at community meetings talking about domestic violence as the number one issue facing their local command, so they're very welcome measures.
SOS has been lobbying the Government for an on-call 24-hour staff member at every refuge in NSW, and yesterday additional funds were allocated to boosting 24-hour access as well as specialist support services, which we're hopeful will be rolled out state-wide.
There were further details in the package about the Government's plans for a domestic violence disclosure centre, which is a common sense measure that will allow people to apply to police for information about their partner's history of domestic violence.
A similar scheme known as Clare's Law began last year in the UK. It may be too early to evaluate the UK scheme, a point that has been raised by the Law Society of NSW. A report by the UK government before their trial began raised concerns about the impact on police resources and whether perpetrators would move onto new victims. The NSW model will link women to services after receiving the information and will hopefully benefit from the UK's experience as it's rolled out.
If women have nowhere safe to go or it's made too difficult for them to leave, they won't.
However, we remain very concerned the Government continues to say refuges haven't been closed in NSW. It's true that none of the buildings have closed, but just because the same buildings are being used doesn't mean it's the same thing. In fact, there are only a handful of specialist refuges left.
Most refuges now mix homeless women with women and children escaping domestic violence, which is not always appropriate and is placing enormous strain on an already stretched system.
Over the last two weeks, we've spoken with every refuge in NSW and most are referring domestic violence victims to motels and caravan parks because they now have to take in homeless women, which leaves victims exposed or reluctant to leave home. We've heard reports of women with young children not feeling safe and leaving homelessness services to sleep in their cars or return home, because the environment is not as safe as it should be.
All but three refuges in NSW reported full capacity nearly every day of the week. One refuge on the Central Coast had turned away five domestic violence victims on the afternoon we spoke to them.
The result is that the overflow of women are being referred to a hotline where they're put through lengthy questioning and a conveyor belt of referrals, and if they manage to get through that in the middle of a hugely traumatic event, they are often sent to a motel or caravan park unaccompanied. We don't think that's the best outcome, especially in country towns where women are easily tracked down by the men they're escaping. As one operator said to us, "They are wizards at finding them". A system like that is a ticking time bomb.
Yesterday's announcement represents a significant change in the language and is hope for much more to come. Strong police measures are necessary and welcome and the recent funding from the Federal Government is also. But the glaring problem that keeps being overlooked is: it doesn't matter how many resources the police are given, how many laws are passed, how many hotlines or education programs are funded, if women have nowhere safe to go or it's made too difficult for them to leave, they won't.
And if they stay in those dangerous situations these terrible statistics will not go down and the shocking deaths will sadly continue.
This article was written by Roxanne McMurray and was copied from here.