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Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service sounds alarm over leap in domestic violence deaths

Giovanni Torre -

Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service says systemic failures to address root problems are driving up domestic and family violence deaths.

On Friday the Service noted that a new report from the Queensland Police Service revealed 24 people were allegedly killed in acts of domestic and family violence across the state in 2023; an "alarming" 50 per cent increase from the previous year, bringing into "sharp focus the urgent need for alternative solutions beyond legislation and traditional police work".

Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service's Principal Legal Officer Thelma Schwartz said there has been "a significant period of reform" in Queensland following the Police Commission of Enquiry as well as "a significant body of transformative work done by the Women's Safety Justice Taskforce which recommended a broad range of reforms".

"The high prevalence of domestic and family violence in the broader community was recognised but also more particularly, was the absolute scourge of domestic and family violence impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people," she said in a statement issued Friday.

"We know that three in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women experience domestic and family violence and have seen from our own experience that many incidents go unreported to police. This is just the tip of the iceberg and more has to be done.

"We don't believe in a silver bullet of legislating our way out of this epidemic of violence. It requires a 'whole of system' approach. Currently there's a sole reliance on the criminal justice system and policing to solve the underlying social triggers. We will need to look at changing perpetrator's attitudes to violence, to gender equality, to harmonious and healthy relationships. There's been a piecemeal approach to what really requires a holistic response and matched-up service system to support it."

Ms Schwartz said authorities need to engage these other service responses to tackle "the underlying problems" of poverty, homelessness, and a lack of education and awareness that create the environment for domestic and family violence.

A Queensland government spokesperson told National Indigenous Times that the government is "committed to creating a safer Queensland, one that takes a zero-tolerance approach to domestic, family and sexual violence".

"We know that domestic and family violence is a scourge on our society. That's why we are taking action to address the many different forms of violence experienced by victim-survivors, to help change attitudes and behaviours towards DFV to keep victims safe, and to hold perpetrators to account," he said.

"In 2023-24, $177.9 million will be invested across the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence sector to deliver a variety of service types including domestic and family violence and sexual assault counselling, specialist homelessness services, perpetrator interventions, children's counselling, and women's health and wellbeing services. Of that, almost $42m will be invested in Specialist Homeless Services, including women's shelters, to ensure victim-survivors fleeing domestic and family violence can have a safe place to stay."

The spokesperson noted that from 1 July this year, an additional $9.5 million per annum ongoing has been allocated to fill identified service delivery gaps in the sector.

"Our work to end domestic, family and sexual violence not only needs to focus on keeping victims safe and holding people using violence accountable; it needs to stop violence from happening and escalating in the first place," he said.

"In 2023-24, $15.3 million was allocated to the implementation of perpetrator programs. This includes additional funding of $3 million per annum for mainstream perpetrator intervention services to meet increased demand. A further $1 million has been allocated for the development of a perpetrator risk assessment tool and workforce attraction and recruitment initiatives to employ and retain the skilled workers needed to deliver perpetrator intervention programs."

The spokesperson said that in total, the government had committed more than $1.5 billion in funding to fight domestic, family and sexual violence in the state since 2015.

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