State’s response to surge in family violence order breaches ‘inadequate’

More than 48,000 family violence perpetrators breached intervention orders in Victoria in 2019-20 and the response to this by authorities was “considered inadequate”.

The final report of Victoria’s Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor also found services for child family violence victims are unable to meet demand, that a chronic shortage of public housing is affecting those trying to flee family violence, and very high numbers of intervention order breaches are a “widespread concern”.

Waiting lists for help for child victims are long and services are inadequate five years after Victoria’s royal commission.Credit:Shutterstock

Five years on from Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence, implementation monitor Jan Shuard found long waiting lists and a lack of data about child victims of violence remain “significant gaps”, and that family violence workers still “don’t feel confident working directly with children”.

“There is not enough emphasis on intervening early, and being clear about the roles and responsibilities of all parties in ensuring that children receive the support they need as early as possible,” the report, tabled in State Parliament on Thursday morning, says.

In the final report into the implementation of the 227 recommendations of the royal commission, Ms Shuard notes some victim survivors “are misidentified as perpetrators and there are difficulties with remedying this in official Victoria Police records”.

“Victim survivors continue to be placed in motels due to demand for crisis accommodation not being able to be met, and these victim survivors need more support,” she states.

At the time of the death of Luke Batty, son of Rosie Batty (above), his father had breached multiple intervention orders. Response to breaches is still “considered inadequate”.Credit:Simon Schluter

Despite spending more than $3 billion devoted to making Victorian women and children safer, the report noted the voices of children and young people are “still overwhelmingly
missing” in the reform and in service design.

Ms Shuard noted strong progress towards system reform included that more than 1500 Victorian schools signed on to the Respectful Relationships program between 2017 and 2020, 166 of the royal commission’s recommendations had been implemented, the Ballarat Specialist Family Violence Court had been opened and there had been statewide rollout of online intervention order applications in the Magistrates Court.

In March, Victoria’s Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan, said children had already been born and died from abuse in the five years since the royal commission was sparked by the murder of 11-year-old Luke Batty by his father, Greg Anderson, who had breached multiple intervention orders and was on un-executed arrest warrants.

Ms Buchanan warned of “catastrophic consequences” for children of the slow pace of reforms.

According to the Coroners Court of Victoria, 65 children who were known to child protection authorities died in 2019-2020, the most recent year for which data is available. Five of the deaths were as a result of assault and 27 were suicides.

The report said more than 23,000 children had been given services at the state’s new network of one-stop-shop family violence services, The Orange Door, in 2019-20, which was a 17 per cent increase from 2018-19.

Children represented 39 per cent of people provided with a response at The Orange Door in 2019-20.

Ms Shuard’s report found the state’s family violence response during the pandemic had been impressive.

“It has highlighted the dedication of the service sector and government agencies to ensure the needs of victim survivors remained at the centre of their work and that perpetrators were kept in view,” she said.

But insufficient crisis response to adolescent family violence remained, as did limited availability of the Adolescent Family Violence Program, despite growing demand.

The monitor’s office was re-funded to work into 2022 but no announcement was made on whether subsequent progress reports will be prepared.

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.

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