Family and sexual violence on the rise, funding must follow suit

With recent figures revealing the scourge of family violence and sexual assault across Gippsland, The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, has called on the Allan Labor Government to urgently increase funding for the under-resourced specialist sexual assault sector.

Addressing the Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, Vicki Ward, in Parliament recently, Ms Bath highlighted the alarming rates of sexual assault and family violence in several LGAs in eastern Victoria.

“According to the Crime Statistics Agency, Latrobe City has the highest rate of family violence per 100,000 population of any municipality in Victoria outside of Melbourne,” Ms Bath said.

“Our local services do a power of work in efforts to support these victim survivors – who are disproportionately women and children – but they are oversubscribed and underfunded.

“Some 360 people in Latrobe City accessed support services through the Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault (GCASA) in the last 12 months, 261 people in the Baw Baw Shire, while 170 and 187 people sought services in East Gippsland and Wellington Shires respectively.

“Alarmingly the organisation reported a massive 200% spike in demand for support through its Crisis Care Service.

“GCASA CEO Jane Barr has confirmed with me the desperate need for adequate funding to keep pace with the huge demand for support which has risen so high that many women and children are now on a waiting list.

“Alarmingly, despite the dire need for definitive action, progress has stalled on the sexual violence strategy and peak body funding runs out on June 30.

“On behalf of GCASA and the expanding network of victim-survivors I am calling on the Minister to commit to $9 million in funding for the specialist sexual assault sector in the upcoming State Budget.

“We know this government cannot manage money, but family violence and sexual assault support is one area Labor absolutely cannot afford to scrimp on.”

The Nationals Member for Morwell, Martin Cameron, said the need for increased and continued funding was clear.

“We are certainly in the midst of a family violence crisis and breaches of family violence orders were the most frequently recorded offence in Latrobe last year,” he said.

“Perhaps most concerning is that these figures only include incidents where police were called for assistance, whereas research suggests that many incidents of family violence go unreported.”

“The state government needs to adequately fund these agencies so they can deliver critical support that is more needed than ever.”