Combating the rise in family violence

By Emma Prior

Family violence is alarmingly on the rise in the Moira region almost doubling in the past five years.

Statistics from the Crime Statistics Agency show in Moira in 2013-2014, 285 cases were recorded compared to 496 in 2017-2018.

In family incidents recorded by the Moira police region and local government area from July 2013 – June 2018 per 100,000 population, Moira had 982.4 for 2013 – 2014 before rising to 1675.2 in 2017 – 2018. 

It’s statistics like these all over Victoria which has prompted more action from authorities and local health services. Victoria Police announced recently they are rolling out new technology to also combat the problem. 

Locally Wangaratta Local Area Commander D4 Eastern Region Acting Inspector Darren McGrillen said although family violence is still an issue, further reporting is helping the police to assist those in danger.

“Moira has seen an increase in crime against the person with a large part of this being Family Violence related incidents, this demonstrates an increased confidence in the community around reporting family violence to police,” Act Insp McGrillen said. 

“Whilst we would like to see the end of family violence, we are aware it is a work in progress and the increase in reporting allows us to provide assistance and protection to those individuals or families that are victims of family violence. 

“We are thankful for the support of the community; intelligence from the community has contributed to a number of the recent arrests. I encourage people to contact Crime Stoppers, or local police if they have information.”

In the health sector Yarrawonga Health is a partner of the Central Hume Strengthening Hospital Response to Family Violence incentive, a regional health group partnership led by North East Health and including Benalla Health, Mansfield Health and Alpine Health to improve the response and support people experiencing family violence.

“We have been a member since 2018 and are committed to raising the profile of family violence in our community, in giving it a voice,” said Yarrawonga Health Director of Clinical Services Kaye Gall.

Key achievements have included working with members in our community to improve the coordination and ability to respond by local and referral support systems currently working in this space.

As a community health service, Yarrawonga Health know they have a significant role to play in potentially being the earliest point of contact for victims and in early identification of this issue.

Over 90% of the staff have attended family violence training and have visiting trained counsellors from Primary Care Connect and Goulburn Valley Centre against sexual assault on-site by appointment, who specialise in family violence and offer a free confidential support service. 

“In late 2017 we also established a Yarrawonga Health Family Violence working party from members of our health service staff and appointed a Family Violence Project Officer,” said Ms Gall. 

The Strengthen Hospital Response to Family Violence Project Officer Fiona DiCioccio currently leads this activity. 

“On Tuesday, September 3, Yarrawonga Health will be hosting a community forum on this issue at the Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort that aims to improve awareness and knowledge of Family Violence in our local community and launch a Family Violence support services brochure to assist access to the right service at the right time,” said Ms DiCioccio.

“This has been supported in partnership with Yarrawonga Health and the local community services.”

This is an opportunity to enhance awareness for support and assistance for anyone experiencing family violence. 

“This supports us as we strive to create improved knowledge and access to our state-wide referral links and community network,” said Ms DiCioccio. 

Victoria Police are improving their response to family violence with the launch of a new Family Violence Report (FVR) – a risk assessment and management tool to keep victims safer and hold more perpetrators to account.

Last week’s state-wide launch of the new FVR comes as Victoria Police completes its rollout of mobile technology to frontline police and protective services officers.

Police will now be able to complete reports in the field as soon as possible after an incident, allowing them to make referrals immediately.

Developed in conjunction with Swinburne University and Forensicare, the tool will provide frontline officers an evidence-based way to assess risk.

Completion of the FVR generates a score that predicts the likelihood of future family violence and severe family violence and will help determine who should manage the investigation.

Family Violence Command Assistant Commissioner Dean McWhirter said family violence and violence against women was core police work, accounting for approximately 40 to 60 per cent of frontline police time.

“In the past 12 months to March this year, police responded to more than 81,000 incidents of family violence,” AC McWhirter said.

“These incidents can be complex, and police are often required to make assessments in stressful circumstances to keep people safe.

“The FVR gives police more guidance and confidence to make improved decisions based on the information they collect, combined with enhanced training and professional judgement.

“Police officers will also be better equipped to understand the intricacies of relationships to determine the risk level. It also allows police to collect consistent information to better track repeat offenders and those who breach intervention orders.

“The highest risk cases will be triaged to the specialist Family Violence Investigation Units, responsible for investigating and managing Victoria’s most serious family violence.

“To make sure it works effectively, the FVR was piloted over two years in two divisions, including Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Wyndham, Brimbank and Melton.

“We’ve already received feedback from a range of sector staff and police officers who have been using the new report about the positive impact for victims and on their own work.

“Combined with specialist responses, it led to a significant reduction in severe harm from family violence in the two-year pilot.

“The combined effectiveness of the research evidence, the evaluation of the two-year pilot, our education program and the commitment of staff is highlighted by these comments.”

The recently completed rollout of the mobile device (iPads and iPhones with a purpose-built application) means Victoria Police has more than 9000 devices out in the field, allowing police officers to submit crime and event reports in the field, conduct checks on a person, licences, vehicles and locations.

Interactive maps also allow officers to have better visibility of incidents occurring around them.

AC McWhirter said it was no secret that a large part of police work involves completing paperwork.

“The state-wide roll out of these devices means that police officers can now be spending more time providing valuable support to victims,” he said.

“Victoria Police is confident the state-wide roll out of this new technology and the Family Violence Report will help improve community safety.”