Narrandera’s Domestic Violence Intervention Committee hosted an awareness morning tea last Thursday for people to understand the resources and staff available to help.
Sid Barone from the Griffith Aboriginal Medical Service, Jesmine Coromandel from the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCAS), Sarah Markham from Links for Women and Constable Laura Lentfield, the Domestic Violence Liaison Officer for Murrumbidgee all gave presentations outlining the roles they play in the community toward helping domestic violence.
“Domestic violence can happen to anyone,” Ms Markham said. “It’s an abuse of power and control, with an escalating, repeated pattern of behaviour.”
Some of the meeting’s participants asked questions about programs in place for perpetrators of domestic violence and whether they were effective.
“There is an offenders program. It’s run by community corrections; it’s for those who have already been charged,” Ms Coromandel said.
“A lot of the perpetrators have no insight into their behaviour, and they don’t want to.”
Mr Barone took the time to explain the links between domestic violence and alcohol, stating that alcohol was present in 40 per cent of domestic violence situations. That number ballooned out to 60 per cent in the west of the state.
Ms Markham explained the role of Links for Women.
“We offer emergency accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence who are also at risk of homelessness. We also offer a lot of life skills courses, parenting courses and domestic violence recovery courses.”
Links for Women has beds for 18 women and children and also helps to organise off-site counselling for women.
“The idea is to work with the women to get them into stable housing. We can provide accommodation for up to three months. Unfortunately – and fortunately, because it means these women have escaped – we are always full.”
Links for Women also has the means to provide transitional accommodation for up to 12 months.
Constable Lentfield, who took the time to come down on her day off, also provided some insight into her role with the Murrumbidgee Police District.
“I work with WDVCAS. We have follow up action with all agencies. I do a lot of court support, and I make sure the cops are doing what they need to be doing.”
Constable Lentfield is part of a crime management team to prevent domestic violence, and her contact details can be obtained from Iris Schofield.
“I’m happy to talk to anyone about what they might need.”
Ms Coromandel outlined the work that WDVCAS do.
“We provide support for victims of domestic violence, particularly through the courts. Our area covers the Murrumbidgee Police District. The only courts we don’t support are Narrandera and West Wyalong, who are covered by the Wagga office.”
According to Ms Coromandel, recent legislation changes have meant that as soon as an incident is reported as a domestic violence incident, WDVCAS make contact with the victim.
“Part of my job is to check the referrals and make contact. They are all allocated with or without the victim’s consent, and we try to organise an action meeting.”
Discussion flowed freely between the presenters and the participants, and Ms Coromandel went into more detail about the nature of domestic violence.
“It’s more than just intimate partner violence. We’re seeing domestic violence between flatmates, and we’re seeing more incidents of child-parent domestic violence.”
Child-parent domestic violence is when the child becomes the aggressor towards their own parents. While Ms Coromandel said she had seen perpetrators as young as 12, the aggressors were usually around 20 years old.
“It’s a difficult situation, because mum and dad don’t want to be rid of them. The referrals will not come from the victim; it’ll be other family members or neighbours who are concerned.”
In these family situations, the police would have to take extra measures – loving parents were unlikely to tell the police that their child had broken an AVO, for example.
“Accountability is not just on the perpetrator – it’s on the victim. An AVO is just a piece of paper unless you enforce it.”
Talk turned to policing numbers in regional areas, and whether police stations were properly manned. Some participants described calling the police station to find no one there.
“Never call a police station for an emergency. Call 000. It goes to a call centre, it’s logged, it’s recorded. I didn’t realise that people were doing this, but don’t ring the local police station.”