The NSW Government’s announcement last week that it will spend $60million combating domestic violence will soon benefit the Clarence Valley, says Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis.
“The Northern NSW Local Health District will be training qualified sexual assault nurse examiners,” Mr Gulaptis said in a media release.
Statistics compiled by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) rank the Clarence Valley local government area (LGA) at 73rd of the 152 state’s LGAs for domestic violence assaults.
There has been a rising trend in domestic assaults, with 192 incidents recorded in 2014, 217 in 2013, 188 in 2012, 169 in 2011 and 157 in 2010.
‘Sexual assaults’ plus ‘indecent assaults, acts of indecency and other sexual offences’ totalled 96 in 2010, 94 in 2011, 88 in 2012, 97 in 2013 and 113 in 2014.
The government’s funding injection into the ‘Staying Home, Leaving Violence’ program aims to increase the focus on perpetrators and reduce re-offending rates.
The government will task Australia’s first dedicated police teams to target high risk domestic violence offenders – and devise behaviour management plans for domestic violence suspects.
Perpetrators will have to participate in mandated behavioural change programs.
Mr Gulaptis said the Staying Home, Leaving Violence program helps women who have separated from a violent partner or family member and who choose to remain in their own home.
“It is based on intensive case work with the police, courts, health services, Housing NSW and relevant non-government organisations,” he said.
“The boost to the number of local sexual assault nurse examiners increases the chances of success in prosecuting and putting away offenders.
“This is timely because, tragically, domestic violence is one of the few crime categories that is not falling on the north coast.
He said “the package will increase crisis accommodation support for victims and introduce Australia’s first domestic violence disclosure scheme, which discloses information about a perpetrator’s violent history, and provide a stronger response to sexual assault”.
“I am proud to be part of a government that treats domestic violence like the crime it is, and treats perpetrators like the criminals they are,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“It’s up to all of us to stand up and say enough is enough,” Mr Gulaptis said.
SOS Women’s Services welcomed the announcement, saying in a media release that: “strong measures to support police to tackle this epidemic and calling the perpetrators exactly what they are – criminals – sends the right message loud and clear.
“Overall this is a strong package and the government deserves to be congratulated for its commitment.
“However, we do have concerns the government continues to say no refuges have closed.
“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.”
From February 2014, there were expressions of outrage from numerous community groups and welfare workers when the NSW Government began implementing modifications to its Going Home Staying Home program – they alleged that as many as 82 refuges across the state were being shut down or taken over by larger church-based NGOs (non government organisations).
“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,” SOS said.
“We’ve spoken recently to every refuge in NSW and most are referring domestic violence victims to motels and caravan parks because they’re now also taking in homeless women, which leaves victims exposed or reluctant to leave home.”
The Going Home Staying Home program, released in February 2013, is a reform initiative that aims to “make specialist homelessness services easier to access and deliver a better balance between early intervention, crisis and post-crisis support”.
Free and confidential medical and counselling support to anyone who has experienced sexual assault is provided by NSW Health Sexual Assault Services in the Clarence Valley, which can be contacted on 6640 2402 and 6621 8000 (after hours).
Clarence River Women’s Refuge & Outreach Services in Grafton can be contacted on 6642 4655; the domestic violence crisis line number is 1800 656 463.