WA has a domestic violence crisis
- Over the year from 2014-15 to 2015-16 the number of criminal incidents of domestic violence reported by WA Police has increased by 17.5%, now numbering 27,641 per annum.
- Over that period of a year the number of domestic violence homicides doubled from 12 to 24 (from July 2015 - June 2016).
- Since 2009 the number of children in the care of the state in WA has risen by 40%, now numbering 4,500 children removed from their families due to abuse or neglect. The costs of care for these children has grown rapidly.
Criminal justice responses to domestic violence are essential to ensuring the safety of survivors, mostly women and often including children.
Longer term approaches are needed to reduce the causes of such violence.
Individual and community attitudes toward women need to promote equality. The rights of children need to be protected.
Violence cannot be excused. Childhood abuse or neglect, poor mental health and/or substance abuse as well as financial hardship and unemployment can be factors that trigger or underpin violent behaviours.
However, over the 2015 and 2016 WA Budgets there have been very significant cuts to the programs and services that seek to prevent domestic violence and associated issues.
- Family support services within the Department of Child Protection and Family Support have been cut by $38 million.
- Parenting information services funded by the Department of Local Government and Communities have been cut by $3.5 million.
- Financial counselling services have been cut by $1.5 million.
- Community-based mental health services have been cut by $6 million.
These cuts to preventative services have occurred as unemployment is rising in WA and while many families are under financial pressures, often associated with the high cost of housing.
The WA Government has also rejected claims for domestic violence leave for its own workforce – leave that could help to prevent a crisis of domestic violence being compounded for survivors, mostly women, by losing their job.
One study of those who have experienced domestic violence found that one in five report that the violence continued at the workplace through abusive phone calls and emails and the partner physically coming to work.
Domestic violence is a whole of society issue and that includes the workplace and employers. Domestic violence leave is an essential workplace entitlement that can help women keep their jobs and maintain financial independence as they escape violence. Staying employed is critical to staying economically independent upon leaving violence. It is essential that the newly elected Government supports domestic violence leave as a workplace entitlement to assist in the prevention of family and domestic violence and in women’s recovery.
It is also about sending a message that family and domestic violence is a reality and a social issue that employers have a responsibility to support their workers through. This is an issue quite distinct from illness and has a distinct set of implications for women experiencing it. The workplace and employers have a very distinct role to play in supporting women through situations of family and domestic violence.
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