Australia's First Family Violence Summit To Look At Real Solutions To End National Disgrace

17/03/2016 10:01 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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This weekend, for the first time in Australia, key players in the domestic and family violence sector will be coming together to focus on creating a real solution to emotional and physical brutality in the home.

The inaugural National Family Violence Summit will bring together emergency workers, government and welfare service providers and educators.

In a bid to put real faces, situations and stories to the family violence crisis, BaptistCare -- which is hosting the summit with the Tara Costigan Foundation -- has shared the very real and very personal stories of four people affected by this epidemic.

Like that of Leanne, who shares her story in the video above.

Leanne bravely explains the fear and feeling of imprisonment many victims experience.

"They say there are 10 different forms of domestic abuse and my husband was nine of them," she told The Huffington Post Australia.

"He kept me away from my family, wouldn't let my friends visit, and I was working with him as well as living with him.

"He gave me jobs to do during the day. I had to ring up to ask to get money to feed the children, and wait at the shopping centre for him to put it into the bank account.”

BaptistCare General Manager of Community Services Rob Ellis told HuffPost Australia that when a woman left her home, she often left most of her resources behind.

“Her income drops, she may be forced to leave her job, so she immediately moves into financial crisis mode, so she loses her ability to sustain a tenancy, and to find an affordable rental for her and her children is compromised," he said.

ANIKE'S STORY

Anike talks about the importance of services like no-interest loans, which helped her get back on her feet after leaving he ex-husband.


Leanne described her life as one of misery and she felt powerless to do anything about it.

For her, the solution came through a combination of police intervention along with housing and support services provided by BaptistCare.

“In the end it was the police coming to my door many times saying you need to get out of this situation,” Leanne told HuffPost Australia.

“I had two little ones at the time, out of the five, so I went, I left the next morning. And I had nowhere to go. I was homeless. So luckily the police rang BaptistCare, and within two days they had accommodation for myself and my children."

While Ellis emphasised the importance of providing housing in crisis response, he said it’s not enough to simply say we need to boost housing services, but rather that housing needed to be appropriate as well.

“It has to meet their needs, in terms of feeling safe, being in locations where they can access employment, kids can access school, and cost of transport is achievable for them,” Ellis said.

Leanne said she was grateful for the police assistance, but felt the policemen she dealt with had their hands tied -- unable to really do anything about the danger they witnessed.

"With the police, they need more policies so they can intervene. They can only give advice. Their hands are tied. They can't do anything, she said.

"My husband was charged a year before I left with assault, but he kept saying, 'I didn't do it, I didn't do it, I didn't do it'. And then he actually said he did, so he got an AVO but in the AVO [it] said he could still come home.

"So he'd come home every night, so I had no choice but to let him in the door, because it was his home too.

"See that's where the system is failing, with AVOs, they're very hard to get and when you do get them they've still got pieces missing in them.”

Ellis added that while response services were integral to reducing the impact of domestic and family violence, men’s behaviour change programs were at the heart of the eventual solution.

"We're convinced there is a need to work with male perpetrators to break the cycle and to actually see the level of domestic violence significantly dropping," he told HuffPost Australia.

"For the perpetrator to start to realise that when he starts to behave in these patterned ways, it has horrendous impacts on his partners, ex-partners and children."

MICHAEL’S STORY

Michael talks honestly about perpetrating violence in the home, and overcoming it through a Men's Behaviour Change Program.


Ellis said that although these programs had anecdotally proven to be successful, there were only six accredited programs in Australia.

"It takes time for the penny to drop. Weeks in, they have this 'ah-ha' moment and it's hugely confronting. They may want to run, literally, but finally comes this part of owning their behaviour.

"One of the startling phrases we hear from men from time to time is, 'I've never seen a functional family, my own is dysfunctional', and they own that in the end.

"They'll say, 'in my background I've never experienced it', not to hide behind it, but to say 'What do I need to do? I don't know how to do it'."

For Leanne, she said that educating young boys and girls on what a healthy relationship looked like would play a large part in ending violence in the home.

"People need to be aware of the first signs, so in their heads they can either say, OK, my partner needs counselling and do it together so it doesn't get any worse. Or say, 'These are alarms bells, this might escalate and I might not be in a safe situation, or my children'.

"Just like they do stranger danger at school, it should be along those lines, it should be part of their education in the health and safety part of it.”

'LISA'S' STORY

These videos were provided exclusively to The Huffington Post by BaptistCare. If you require any additional information about the services they provided you can head here.

BaptistCare and The Tara Costigan Foundation will be hosting a Fundraising Ball May 27. If you would like to support women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, you can purchase tickets here.

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