As the Victorian Government announces plans to roll out a grant scheme for Aboriginal-led family violence prevention services, organisations are calling for more sustainable service funding.

Victorian Minister for Prevention of Family Violence and Aboriginal Affairs, Gabrielle Williams, announced $18.2 million in funding grants in September, which can be accessed through the Dhelk Dja Family Violence Fund.

“All Victorians deserve to live free from violence—and the best response for Aboriginal communities is one that is led by Aboriginal communities,” said the Minister.

“I look forward to seeing continued positive change and thank the many Aboriginal organisations that are doing this important work.”

Despite this announcement, some services have expressed a need for longer-term funding.

Family violence and healing service Dardi Munwurro (Strong Spirit), is one such service. Their Brother to Brother Aboriginal men’s crisis hotline is set to run out of funding this month.

The hotline was implemented in response to COVID-19 in March to support Aboriginal men in Victoria.

Operating on six months’ funding from the Victorian Government, the hotline has attracted immense success. In August alone, it registered 300 calls from across the country.

“It started off with the Victorian response because we’re based in Victoria. But it’s gone almost viral. Because there’s nothing like it, it has gone across the country,” said Dardi Munwurro Director, Alan Thorpe.

“[When] that funding runs out … we’re sort of stuffed. All we can do is advocate for this; we’re going to do our best to keep it going.”

Thorpe said Aboriginal-led services such as the hotline need sustainable financial investment to continue their programs into the future—not just a grant tender process.

“We step into self-determination; we lead these initiatives and services.”

“There are a lot of mainstream support services which is awesome, but there is only one Aboriginal one that supports men around the country, and we can’t back it alone,” he said.

With more sustainable funding, Thorpe said Dardi Munwurro would have the capacity to continue the hotline service and promote it to a larger audience.

“We’d have more of a reach … there is so much opportunity to grow it,” said Thorpe.

“It needs a commitment—a commitment from us and a commitment from government … we build the relationships and the databases, and we make sure there are no men falling through the gaps.”

Despite the funding uncertainty, Dardi Munwurro is dedicated to giving it their all to continue the hotline.

“This isn’t just a COVID response now, this is bigger than COVID. This is our men and our community,” said Thorpe.

“And we’re not going to let it go, we’re absolutely 110 per cent committed to it. It’s just who we are as people, we’re there for one another … that’s what this line does, it sends that message that we are here for you.”

By Rachael Knowles