Page 4435 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 22 November 2005

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parents to care for sick children; and encouraging positive images and role models of men for boys to emulate.

When I was speaking with the Domestic Violence Crisis Service earlier today to get an update, a number of problems were outlined by the organisation in regard to domestic violence in the ACT. Firstly, the DVCS noted that domestic violence is on the rise in the ACT, as are all types of violence. The most recent Australian data comes from a national survey of 6,600 women by the Australian Institute of Criminology in 2004. This survey found that, in the past 12 months, 10 per cent of Australian women had experienced at least one incident of physical and/or sexual violence from a man and that, over their lifetime, 57 per cent of women reported experiencing at least one incident of physical and/or sexual violence. Of these women aged 18 to 69, just under half had experienced physical violence and one-third had experienced sexual violence.

Similar findings came from a national survey in 1996 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I might say that that was about the last time, I think, the ABS did a specific complex analysis of statistics related to women. These and other services consistently find that anywhere from one-quarter to one-third—even up to one-half, depending on their whereabouts—of Australian women will experience physical or sexual violence by a man at some point in their lives. We know too that young women are at greater risk than older women, especially of sexual assault. Nonetheless, we know that it is often older women who feel most insecure.

Secondly, families are facing an increasing level of stress in day-to-day living. DVCS noted the work being done by the ACT government in regard to child protection, but was saddened by the limited improvements in family support. It could be argued that the management of domestic violence is similar to that of mental health in that assistance is not provided until the final critical stages are reached. There are many gaps in family support services that seem to be assisting families to fall through the safety nets into critical levels of domestic violence. DVCS remarked that a number of people who arrive in their hands could have been assisted much earlier in the process. The good workers delivering services to these people often wonder why the families were not helped sooner. There is a lack of holistic preventative support for families to assist them in coping with everyday stresses.

If we put more into prevention, we could minimise the extraordinary impacts that domestic violence has on the individuals involved and the community at large. A study last year by VicHealth found that, among women under 45, intimate partner violence contributes more to their poor health, disability and death than any other risk factor, including obesity and smoking. To focus on the economic costs, Access Economics estimated in a report last year that the total annual cost of domestic violence is $8.1 billion in terms of costs to the victim, others affected by the violence and the community. Perhaps governments at both levels should be looking into the family support services provided in the ACT while the work on the child protection review is winding down. We need programs to assist families in their parenting roles so that they can better care for children in themselves.

And then there is the housing crisis, which is exacerbating the situation for victims of domestic violence. We know that since the 2003 bushfires the growing backlog in priority one housing has been preventing women and children from accessing safe and

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