Domestic violence forum highlights challenges for NSW rural and regional communities
The first forum focusing on the unique challenges faced by victims of domestic violence in rural, regional and outer metropolitan NSW was held this afternoon, with the NSW Government acknowledging the urgency of the issue and pledging to work closely with support services on areas of need.
The Regional Domestic and Family Violence Roundtable was convened by Domestic Violence NSW in conjunction with the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW, and was attended by NSW Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Mark Speakman, and Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Trish Doyle. Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women, Bronwyn Taylor, was unable to attend but sent a video message of support.
Almost 20 support services were represented during the two-hour video meeting including Women’s Safety NSW (the peak body for the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service); The Salvation Army; Barnardos; Carrie’s Place Domestic Violence and Homelessness Services; South East Women’s and Children’s Services; Illawarra Women’s Health Centre; and Orana Support Service. Services from every corner of the state had representatives in attendance.
The forum highlighted numerous issues and concerns of these frontline services, with problems around access to sexual, domestic and family violence services in smaller communities, and the challenges of geographical and social isolation high on the priority list. Police and system responses, the adequacy of courthouse facilities and legal support services; access to affordable housing; access to refuge accommodation – which reflects the needs of families, people with disabilities and older women; and increased cross-sector collaboration was also discussed. Attendees also outlined how drought, bushfires and the COVID-19 crisis had compounded the risks and barriers to support for women, LGBTIQ people, children and animals.
At the conclusion of the roundtable, participants agreed to continue the discussion with each other, and with Government. Minister Speakman thanked the participants and hosts for their valuable feedback and discussion on areas of concern in regional NSW and highlighted recent Government investments, including COVID-19 related funding for specialist frontline services.
The event was organised to coincide with the United Nation’s global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which began on November 25, with DVNSW CEO Delia Donovan saying the roundtable was a significant acknowledgement of the urgent need to improve the supports available to women, children and LGBTIQ people experiencing domestic and family violence in regional NSW.
“This is something we’ve been advocating for and we thank the NSW Government for recognising how important it is to understand the additional challenges facing domestic violence support services in non-metropolitan areas, and victim-survivors of violence,” she said.
“This year, too, has added another layer to the crisis - for victim-survivors everywhere - as the COVID-19 health, economic and social crisis has increased the vulnerabilities of people at risk of, and experiencing, violence. So, there has never been a more critical time to hold a roundtable like this and understand just how we can ensure victim-survivors can access the support they need.”
Domestic violence awareness and the need for more action around the issue has been a particular focus for the CWA of NSW this year, with the organisation making it the subject of its annual Awareness Week campaign in September. The call by DVNSW for a roundtable with rural, regional and outer metropolitan support services was backed by the organisation and CWA of NSW president Stephanie Stanhope said it was gratifying to see it come to fruition.
“Our members felt there was no more urgent issue than domestic violence to highlight this year, describing it as a national emergency and calling for additional support for victims and their families. “We’re confident today is an important step in defining the challenges faced by victims in rural and regional NSW and establishing a process that starts to improve the outreach, outcomes and outlook for victims, and ultimately starts to stop this terrible cycle of violence before it even begins,” Stephanie said.
Shadow Minister Trish Doyle said it had been a valuable insight into what was required by services in non-metropolitan areas to continue to improve the outcomes for victims of violence and their families.
“Frontline workers and advocates from rural and regional NSW and outer metropolitan areas have told me about their particular difficulties assisting women and children, including lack of anonymity, safety issues in rural courts, lack of access to women’s refuges and other support services. Many rural women’s refuges have been defunded over the past 10 years and the impacts of COVID-19 have exacerbated access issues to services placing services under severe strain as they work to support victims and survivors,” she said.
“Solutions to these problems require urgent action. It is great to see two ardent advocacy organisations, Domestic Violence NSW and the Country Women’s Association, working together to strengthen responses to domestic and family violence beyond our cities.”
For interview inquiries contact Caitlin Morahan, Media & Communications Manager DVNSW, on
0466 813 124 or Kylie Galbraith (Seftons), CWA of NSW, on 0411 480 208.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence help can be found via:
• 1800RESPECT or 1800 737 732 which offers a national counselling helpline, information and support
• NSW Domestic Violence Line 1800 65 64 63 which offers a state-wide counselling helpline, information and support
• Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491 for men, or friends and family of men using violence
About Domestic Violence NSW:
Domestic Violence NSW is the peak body for specialist domestic and family violence services in NSW. DVNSW provides a representative and advocacy function for specialist services and the women, families and communities they support. Their mission is to eliminate domestic and family violence through leadership in policy, advocacy, partnerships and the promotion of best practice.
About CWA of NSW:
The CWA is the largest women's organisation in Australia and since 1922 has been working to improve conditions for country women and children. We reach that aim in various ways including lobbying for change, helping the local community, creating a network of support and meeting together in towns and cities.