Parliament: Questions Kelly's Asked

Domestic Violence Services in the Riverland

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for the Status of Women questions about domestic violence services in the Riverland.

Leave granted.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: It has come to my attention that domestic violence in the Riverland has dramatically increased recently, apparently as the result of the use of crystal methamphetamine or ice. I have been told anecdotally that domestic violence services in metropolitan areas have instructed their staff not to take on more than 15 clients at any one time. In Riverland areas, however, staff have between 40 and 60 clients, in addition to referring many clients to other services. I have concerns for the wellbeing of their staff, who are experiencing pressure in their roles, and also obvious concerns for clients who are not receiving adequate attention and support due to the exhaustion of the Riverland services.

Despite the recent success of the six-week disability-specific program run in the Riverland aimed at women with disability who were experiencing domestic violence, this program, I understand, will not be run again due to a lack of funding. It is my belief that education, awareness and community engagement are fundamental in terms of preventative measures for domestic violence, and yet most services are currently aimed at post-incident management of domestic violence. My questions are:

1.Does the minister acknowledge a heightened need for domestic violence services in the Riverland?

2.Does the minister intend to support Riverland services in achieving similar staff to client ratios to those of metropolitan services?

3.Does the minister acknowledge that women experiencing domestic violence, and the staff and service providers supporting them, face additional challenges in regional and remote areas?

4.Is the minister aware that women with disability are at least twice as likely to experience domestic violence? What measures are in place to support the decline of this brutal statistic?

5.Is the minister aware that women with a disability can find it more difficult to escape violence, since they may depend on the abuser for personal care support or financial support?

6.Is the minister aware that women with disability face additional challenges in accessing domestic violence supports due either to physical barriers with entry to shelters or a lack of awareness of supports available due to social isolation or illiteracy?

7.How does the minister intend to support domestic violence services so that they can implement more preventative measures?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers): I thank the honourable member for her many questions on domestic violence. Indeed, she has raised many issues that would take me a considerable time to do justice, given that they are quite lengthy and quite complex.

There are many services that we provide to assist all women in South Australia who are at risk of domestic violence, as well as, of course, early intervention and prevention programs that provide assistance to the particular groups the honourable member has referred to—women in country areas and also women with disability.

Very briefly, for instance, we have rolled out the Family Safety Framework right around South Australia now. This is a framework that seeks to ensure that services to families most at risk are dealt with in a highly structured and systematic way through agencies sharing information about high-risk families and taking responsibility for supporting these families to navigate those service systems.

That includes women with disabilities as well. We have placed a senior domestic violence research officer into the Coroner’s Court that helps review cases and looks at particularly systemic issues within our agencies to ensure that we are responding to enhance the way we provide services and provide protection to those at risk.

We have violence against women collaborations, which provide an opportunity for the development of local regional prevention strategies in responses to women experiencing rape and sexual assault, domestic and family violence and homelessness due to violence. Those collaborations are particularly effective in country areas. We have, as I just announced, the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service. That is a free telephone service where advice and assistance can be provided to women all around South Australia, including those with a disability.

We have an early warning system that is attached to our MAPS agency. The state government has introduced an early warning system, which will help provide a circuit breaker in instances where a domestic violence service provider does not believe the most appropriate response to their client’s situation has been received. It is designed to increase accountability and provide an escalation point where gaps or flaws have occurred.

I have talked already today about the White Ribbon accreditation across all our agencies. I have also talked at length in this place about the implementation of intervention orders and other services in South Australia that complement this work, such as crisis response, ongoing counselling, medical services, accommodation services and a wide range of support services to women.