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Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 7th April 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> April -> Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence is In the Spotlight

A broad definition of family violence underpinnedthe Commission's inquiries. In scope, of course, wasbehaviour that causes a child or young personto hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of, family-violencebehaviour, and included family violencebetween children and parents, siblings, young people involved in intimate relationships, and adolescentproblem sexual behaviour.

Of the 227recommendations, somespecifically targetchildren and young people's needs, as well as children benefiting fromthe downstream effects of implementingresponses to recommendations that focus on integrated and specialised responses, raising communityawareness, improvinginformation sharing, and making those who perpetrate violence accountable. Of particular interestare theCommission'srecommendations aimed at increasing the availability of therapeutic interventions, counselling and early intervention programs for children and young people, and youth-appropriate accommodation for young people escaping family violence. Other recommendations relate to engaging and supporting young people, workforce training and development, and specifically addressing the rights and needs of children and young people in updating service standards for specialist family violence services.

In reflecting on the interface between the child protection and family violence service systems, greater collaboration between statutory services,specialist family violence services and the network of intensive family support services was seen asnecessary to ensure that families experiencing family violence do not fall between the cracks. The Commission was concerned toensure that families affected by violence are kept safe and offered appropriate support, even if the threshold for statutorychild protection intervention is not reached.

Use byyoung people of family violence and problem sexual behaviourwere deemedasrequiringa specialist response; one that is far more comprehensive than Victoria's (and likely elsewhere's)current "patchwork of supports". Althoughthe Commission was unable to identify systemicresponses to the needs of these young people and their families, promising localinitiatives were identified. Early intervention therapeutic and diversionary responses are to be prioritised which for example, seek to prevent the escalation of violence, support parents, andimprovethe young person'scommunication and problem-solving skills. A youth diversion program is also to be trialled in the Children's Court of Victoria.

The Commission was made awarethat the rates of family violence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanderchildren, families and communities are higher than for non-Indigenous Australians, that barriers to accessing culturally relevantservices are significant, and thatfamily preservation and reunification services require significantinvestment. The Commission concluded that significant investment inAboriginal community controlled services was anurgentpriority.

For children, young people and families from culturally and linguistically diverse communities whose experiences of family violence are the same and different to other cultural groups,the Commission focused on increased capacity of generic and specialistservice providersto identify and respond to female victim's needs, improved use of language interpreters, and expanding examples in thefamily violence legislation toinclude forced marriageand dowry-related abuse. Female genital mutilation was also considered as family violence.

As indicated above, it may be expected that implementation of the recommendations will generally improve responses tochildren and young people who experience thedirect or indirectimpacts of, or whouse, family violence. Of specific interest in Queensland given the government'sconcerted focus and investment in this areaare those that seem different. In this respect, the following threerecommendationsstand out - priority funding to therapeutic interventions and counselling for child victims and extendingaccess beyond statutory child protection clients to theTake Two program and similar intensive therapeutic programs tochildren and young people affected byfamily violence-related trauma; information sharing between police and the statutory child protection agency about risk assessmentsto assist police with seekingintervention orders (though this was consideredin the Carmody Inquiry recommendations); and the extension of thetherapeutic treatment order regimefor young people aged 15 to 17 years underthe child protection legislation to enable magistrates to order attendance at programs. Therapeutic treatment orders are used in Victoria and some other jurisdictions as a court-ordered entry pointto 'secure' care tocontainyoung peoplewhose safety is at imminent risk. Orders are granted for a specified period of time with the objective ofstabilising the young person's behaviour and condition.

Watch this space to see how the Victorian family violenceinquiry influencesQueensland's child and family, domestic and family violence, and other reform agendas.Of course, initiatives that are introduced by one state do not always translate well when they are introduced into other states or territories. There are no doubt lessons that may be learned from the Victorian Inquiry, but they will need to be carefully considered within a Queensland context.

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