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Keeping our Community Safe

Bevan Warner, CEO of Launch Housing in Melbourne, states that many Australians have a ‘meritocracy’ belief that if you work hard you will succeed.  If we follow that same line of thinking, if you don’t work hard, you will fail and what more visible sign of failure could there be than homelessness?  According to the Barwon South West Homelessness Network, the causes are complex but the most common reason people seek housing assistance is family and domestic violence.

Statistics tell us that victims of physical, sexual and emotional violence are predominately women – so are the majority of those seeking housing assistance.  A common question of the uninformed observer is “Why doesn’t she just leave?”  Local and Specialist Family Violence Prosecutor, Carolyn Howe, relates that of different types of abuse suffered, female victim report that psychological abuse is the most debilitating.  The perpetrator coercively controls the victim into believing she is not a good person, is mentally unstable, worthless, and not worth helping.

A South West Victorian woman and her children summoning extraordinary courage to flee an abusive household may be supported to stay in a hotel or caravan park for just 2-3 nights. There are 968 households waiting for social housing in the South West region, victims may have no alternative than to return to the perpetrator in the family home.  The informed question of “How does she keep going?” seems more appropriate.

In our COVID-19 environment, the statistics are hard to interpret whilst interactions with teachers, friends and workmates are suspended.  This means that opportunities to confidentially report have evaporated.  As schools and workplaces gradually repopulate and social activities resume, a further increase in personal assault reports and additional demand for housing support is expected.

What harder daily work could there be than to maintain your own and your children’s mental and physical health, whilst seeking refuge from family and domestic violence? A permanent and safe home would surely be the ultimate success.

Anyone seeking refuge from family violence can contact: Safe Steps, Emma House, Djirra (Indigenous support) or Brophy Youth and Family Services.

2020 Program Partcipants: Joy Coulon and Liam Arnott

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