Home » ‘Unacceptably high’ domestic violence statistics in WA’s north leads to call for change

‘Unacceptably high’ domestic violence statistics in WA’s north leads to call for change

The Kimberley has recorded the highest rates of family violence in Western Australia, according to December 2023 figures released by WA Police.

by Narges Mohammadi

In a region with Western Australia’s worst domestic violence statistics, hundreds of people took to the streets on Friday in a bid to call for change.

The Ochre Ribbon March was held in the Kimberley town of Broome to raise awareness of the alarming rates of family and domestic violence in the region.

It comes as the latest WA Police statistics show the Kimberley recorded the highest number of family assaults of any WA policing district in December.

The total number of family assaults increased from 410 in November to 453 in December, the highest number of reported offences for the year.

Meanwhile, the number of charges laid for family-related threatening behaviour also increased from 100 to 121.

Advocates said the Ochre Ribbon March was held to shine a light on the high rates of family and domestic violence (FDV) and pay respects to victims and survivors.

Broome’s Aboriginal Family Legal Service chairperson Rowena Puertollano said the accessibility of alcohol and drugs played a role in the violence rates.

“We need to speak up and we need to have these conversations and direct people who need help to these agencies,” she said.

AnglicareWA family and relationship services counsellor Lisa Burton said FDV figures were consistently high in the Kimberley.

“The numbers are high but there are many that are not reported. I think that speaks to the complexity of the issue,” she said.

Kate Forward works at Broome’s Women’s refuge and said it was important for the community to know there was help available.

“It’s quite confronting and we definitely need change,” she said.

Kimberley crying out for more services

The Department of Communities is yet to appoint a tender for Broome’s One Stop Hub for Family and Domestic Violence, which was originally planned to be operational in early 2024.

The Aboriginal-led organisation will provide support services such as counselling, legal assistance, and support to children in one location — and extend family and domestic violence services to other communities including Derby and Bidyadanga, south of Broome.

A $5.5 million specialist family and domestic violence court was also planned to open in Broome in mid-2023, but was delayed due to “market conditions”.

Broome’s AnglicareWA service manager Francesca Quayle said violence rates in the Kimberley were “unacceptably high” and more resources were required.

“There are fewer services than there could be in this area. We are constantly seeking future funding and expansion of services,” she said.

“Probably the biggest need is crisis response. Very few of us [organisations] are actually funded to deliver that and we just don’t have the resources.”

More prevention work needed

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, released earlier this month, shows there was a 13 per cent increase in FDV-related offences in WA from 2022–23 with 81 per cent of offenders identified as men.

In WA’s South West, more than 2,200 kilometres south of Broome, a domestic violence support service said it had also seen an “upsurge” in the number of women seeking help.

“We’ve got quite a significant waitlist [of about 200] at the moment,” Waratah chief executive Rebecca Jury said.

Ms Jury said it was not clear whether the increase in women coming forward had been caused by a rise in FDV cases, or more survivors feeling comfortable to make a report.

A dark haired woman, with a serious expression.
Waratah CEO Rebecca Jury says more women have been coming forward for help across the South West.(ABC South West WA: Georgia Loney)

She said the number of women over the age of 50 who had left relationships due to violence and were now struggling financially had also increased.

“There is a growing awareness that they can leave, but then it leaves older women in a really vulnerable position as well,” Ms Jury said.

“We’ve certainly been trying to provide more women’s empowerment groups and financial counselling for older women.”

Ms Jury said while the statistics made her feel “overwhelmed”, it was important to focus on prevention work, including in schools, to stop violence against women “before it begins”.

“This is a time for change and I hope that services are able to respond in meaningful ways,” she said.

“But I also hope that we begin to see social change with more men and boys becoming educated about gender-based violence and being able to challenge it.”

Source: ABC News

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