Soon after taking office in November last year, the Victorian Labor Government announced that a Royal Commission into family violence would start in 2015. Earlier this week the terms of reference were released (view here), which give the Commission broad powers to investigate aspects of family violence from community attitudes and gender equality right through to the effectiveness of organisational responses. There is a strong focus on not just preventing family violence, but also holding perpetrators to account. Headed by Justice Marcia Neave, work will start in early February and run for 12 months, as the Premier has said publicly that he wants the findings to be ready in time to inform the next state budget.
Women escaping family violence is the single biggest cause of homelessness in Victoria so it is likely that the findings of the Royal Commission will have a strong impact on the homelessness sector. Many women who experience family violence have a home. The problem is that it’s no longer safe to be in that home. Traditionally there has been a focus on making it safe for women to leave; however community attitudes are changing and there’s now widespread acceptance that the thinking needs to change. Women and children have the right to stay in their home – the perpetrator is the one who should be removed.
The Safe at Home program is a collaborative project between a group of family violence agencies in Western Melbourne that operates on this philosophy. Safe at Home offers a range of services that help victims stay safe in their homes once the perpetrator is removed through things such as changing locks and installing security cameras on the property. If women can stay safe in their own homes it prevents homelessness for victims of family violence.
However, there will still be times when a person has to leave without time to plan. Therefore it is essential that the government provides enough housing so that no one has to stay in a dangerous environment because they have nowhere to go, and fear becoming homeless.
The terms of reference are broad and it’s encouraging that they recognise the complexity of family violence, and that multi-faceted cooperation across areas, including homelessness services, is required to genuinely address the problem. CHP will be providing relevant information to the Commission and actively following its progress throughout 2015.
More information on family violence and homelessness can be found in our fact sheet here.