Councils plan regional strategy against domestic violence

PREVENTION of violence against women and children is likely to officially become a key goal across south-west Victoria.

Councils in the Great South Coast group are progressively voting to endorse  a proposed five-year strategy  to increase community awareness and encourage gender equality and non-violence.

Next month the group’s leadership board will vote on whether to make it a regional priority project after a draft version was produced last year with funding from government and regional agencies.

Warrnambool City councillors unanimously endorsed the strategy earlier this month after already making the issue a key plank in the local 2013-2017 health and well-being plan.

The city’s community development director Vicky Mason reminded councillors Warrnambool had above-average violence statistics with 12.2 incidents per 1000 population in 2011-2012 compared with 9.1 per thousand statewide.

Child abuse is also higher than average with the most recent figures from 2008-09 showing 16.5 substantiated incidents per 1000 population compared with seven per 1000 statewide.

Nationally, the highest sector of victims was aged between 15 to 45 involving violence by men against women, she said.

“Child abuse is known to affect brain development in children, leading to poor learning and development,” Ms Mason said.

“Research shows this may translate later in life to higher rates of unemployment, crime and general anti-social behaviour.”

Cr Jacinta Ermacora said family violence was embarrassing and difficult for the community to acknowledge.

“It’s prevalent in our cities and communities,” she said.

“More than half the women in Australia have experienced violence before the age of 16.”

Cr Peter Hulin described domestic violence as a tragedy.

“Unfortunately we have quite a problem in our area,” Cr Hulin said.

“It’s important that people in this situation have somewhere to go and don’t have to put up with it.

“We’ve got to get to the root cause. I can’t remember a strategy for men who obviously need help if they are belting women.

“We need to work on the cause not a Band-Aid solution.

“I’d like to see the next round of funding go to finding the cause.”

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