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Royal Commission into Family Violence to back local approaches

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Local community at Leading Change luncheon for the prevention of violence against women at Women’s Health Grampian’s Luncheon in March

WOMEN’S Health Grampians was pleased to draw on their nine years’ experience working in the prevention of violence against women in their submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

“The Royal Commission provides an opportunity for us to tell our story what is happening at the local level here in regional and rural Victoria – and in the Grampians in particular. One of the most crucial elements in addressing the underlying causes of family violence is that it requires a local response, and on that front we have a positive story to tell” said Marianne Hendron, Chief Executive Officer at Women’s Health Grampians.

“State and national leadership is crucial – but it is local leadership and local community effort that is required to respond to local circumstances and drive social change. This violence happens in our communities, and it is in the communities where attitudes and behaviours need to change.”

Family violence is an issue for all Victorians but the Grampians region has particular areas of high risk when compared to state averages. In Ballarat, the rate of family violence reported to police is 50% higher than the state rate, in Ararat it is 70% higher and in Horsham it is more than double. Children are also more likely to be present. In Ararat and Horsham they are more than twice as likely to be present, when compared with the state average (based on Victoria Police data for 2013-14, [rate per 100,000] reported incidents by LGAs). “Our work focuses on addressing the underlying causes in order to completely eradicate it from our society – it’s not just about the women experiencing violence and the male perpetrators, it’s about the community and the way we value women and men as equals and the way this is evident in everyday interactions” said Marianne. “What we have found over recent years in our work with local councils, local businesses and other community organisations is that there is a great sense of shared responsibility and concern over this situation.” Women’s Health Grampians notes significant local leadership in programs such as their Act@Work program; local councils conducting community roundtables; providing opportunities to swear an oath against violence; develop a community charter; hosting You the Man (a play on bystander action); sponsoring bystander training and community responsibility workshops for employees and to lead White Ribbon events – just to name a few. “Events such as our “Leading Change” breakfast and lunch held in the region were sold out with over 300 local leaders coming together to hear how they can take action in our community. Likewise the Act@Work program is unable to meet current interest from workplaces wanting to do the intensive program. Our Community of Practice forum planned for 24 June – also aiming to support our local organisations taking action – has received great interest” said Marianne. “The sense of local responsibility is high and community momentum is growing, what we need now is long term adequate funding to optimise our local response.”

The submission highlights the key barriers to local level change are lack of funding, and short term funding models; lack of local data; lack of structural incentives and regulation to support social change; and recognition of primary prevention as separate to preventing ‘further’ violence.