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WA investment in violence prevention welcomed, but concerns raised for regions

Giovanni Torre -

The Western Australian government has announced a $72.6 million investment to help stop family and domestic violence in the state.

Informed by discussions of the Family and Domestic Violence Taskforce, the funding boost will go towards programs that support victim-survivors, intervene with perpetrators and "work towards stopping violence before it starts", the government said on Monday.

A total of $22.6 million is set aside to replace the Stirling Women's Refuge, a crisis accommodation centre for those escaping violence at home. The investment will see the aging facility upgraded and its capacity increased, expanding from five rooms in a shared facility to 16 new independent units.

The announcement also included $5 million for a two-year public education campaign, to promote understanding in the wider community and challenge outdated and dangerous views.

The funding will see the expansion of the Respectful Relationships teaching support program. A $1.5 million investment will fund enhancement and expansion of the program, including through the development of online content, and culturally appropriate content for Aboriginal young people.

The government's announcement coincided with the 16 Days in WA campaign, which encourages people to play their part to end violence against women.

WA Premier Roger Cook said the investment was a testament to the WA government's "firm resolve to end family and domestic violence in WA".

"The impact of this horrific abuse affects the entire community. It is unacceptable and it must stop. The initiatives announced today will provide healing and recovery supports to victim-survivors, intervention programs for perpetrators, and vital education programs to help prevent family and domestic violence before it begins," he said.

UWA Law School Adjunct Professor Victoria Hovane welcomed the state government's "investment in initiatives that prevent and respond to domestic and family violence and especially initiatives in our communities".

Dr Hovane, whose family is Ngarluma, Gooniyandi and Malgnin/Jaru, drew attention to WA's Aboriginal Family Safety Strategy (AFSS), "which is yet to be implemented through a First Action/ Implementation Plan".

"(We) are interested in how the government proposes to provide holistic, comprehensive and coordinated responses in communities as called for by those who provided input into the AFSS' development. A different approach to funding responses in communities is needed, one that is strategic and sustainable for whole of community safety and wellbeing," she told National Indigenous Times.

Aboriginal Males Healing Centre CEO Devon Cuimara warned the announced investment was "Perth-centric".

He contrasted the $22.6 million set aside to replace the Stirling Women's Refuge, a crisis accommodation centre for those escaping violence at home, with services in regional areas "where Women's Refuges are inundated" and protecting the anonymity of clients is almost impossible.

"Furthermore, a significant proportion of the $6 million will be allocated to non-profit organisations that cater to Aboriginal men but are run by non-Aboriginal individuals. This appropriation of service delivery shall lead to an increase in punitive measures and, ultimately, incarceration of Aboriginal men. This, in turn, shall result in more absent fathers from kinship systems, perpetuating the normalisation of violence, incarceration, and the lack of black masculinity. To prevent this, the government must invest in Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs), such as the Aboriginal Males Healing Centre (AMHC), which are necessary due to the lack of Aboriginal cultural safety, knowledge, leadership, and expertise," he told National Indigenous Times.

"The government must recognise the importance of investing in ACCOs to prevent the perpetuation of systemic issues and provide better support to Aboriginal men and their families."

WA Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Sabine Winton said the state government "is listening and taking action to address the scourge of family and domestic violence in WA".

"We take this issue extremely seriously, and I'm proud that today's announcement is informed by the work of the Family and Domestic Violence Taskforce, which is central to making meaningful change in this space," she said.

Other initiatives funded by Monday's announcement include: $12 million in grants to support primary prevention and Aboriginal family safety; $6.6 million in operating funding for the new Ruah Centre for Women and Children which will offer crisis accommodation via 13 units in an inner city location; $6 million for perpetrator programs, including expansion into new locations in regional WA; and $3.1 million to expand the Safe at Home program which is helping women and children stay safely in their homes.

The WA government said the funding builds on their investment in new family and domestic violence initiatives, "with more than $300 million committed since 2017".

"A suite of law reforms is also progressing, including measures to keep guns out of the hands of offenders, and strengthened GPS tracking for perpetrators," the government said in a statement.

People experiencing family and domestic violence can call:

Women's Domestic Violence Helpline 1800 007 339

Men's Domestic Violence Helpline 1800 000 599

1800 RESPECT

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