Causes of domestic violence require attention amid funding shortfall

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By Joseph Small:

Women’s refuges around NSW are at breaking point, being forced to turn away domestic violence victims and their children more than ever before, while domestic violence figures continue to rise.

While the State Government has introduced new programs to assist victims of domestic violence, a radical funding shake-up has added to  the burden already carried by charitable organisations.

The Thelma Brown Cottage in Parramatta was established in 2003, and since then has provided accommodation and support to approximately 50 women and 100 children annually.

Penelope Gleeson, the General Manager of the Cottage, believes a lack of public awareness and government support leaves staff to work with very few resources. “Sadly, Thelma Brown Cottage can accommodate less than half of the women that request assistance as we simply don’t have sufficient accommodation or staff”. Penelope believes the number of calls they are receiving requesting help is unprecedented. “It really has never been this bad”.

The Department of Family and Community Services declined to comment on recent cuts to funding to independent charities such as the Thelma Brown Cottage, however a spokesperson said “ Programs such as Staying Home Leaving Violence are proving to be invaluable in helping women and children remain safely in their homes rather than having to flee to escape a violent partner”.

Measuring the success of such programs remains a tricky task, with fewer than half of all domestic violence victims reporting to the police, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“Most of these women don’t know about programs run by government bodies simply because there is no one to tell them” said Alexandra Falconer, assistant manager of the House of Welcome refuge in Carramar, NSW. “The Department [of Family and Community Services] releases an annual report telling us all about the successes of these programs, but they really don’t give a context. They don’t tell you about the not so successful stories”.

In the year 2013-14, neighbouring state Victoria saw the number of domestic disputes reported to Victorian Police rise 83 per cent from that of the previous year. Months later, a Ministership for the Prevention of Family Violence was created.

The NSW State Government appointed Pru Goward Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence in April.

Whether or not State Government will again attempt to prevent the cause or whether under-funded local charities will continue to pick up the broken pieces remains to be seen.

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