‘Worst year on record’ – More support for women facing family violence


PENINSULA Community Legal Centre has received extra funding to fight rising levels of family violence on the Mornington Peninsula.

This comes as the United Nations declares the global increase in domestic violence for women and children a “shadow pandemic”.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 will be remembered by many of those working in the family violence sector as the worst on record,” PCLC’s CEO Jackie Galloway said.

“Our family violence team has not only seen an increase in the frequency and severity of family violence across the Mornington Peninsula and Melbourne’s south east, but also a surge in people affected by family violence for the first time.”

To meet this demand the centre, which has branches and outreach services at Rosebud, Frankston, Hastings and Cranbourne, has doubled the size of its specialist family violence team in the past two months.

“Families being stuck at home, job losses and increased financial stress have contributed to increased violence in many households”, Ms Galloway said. “International Human Rights Day (Thursday 10 December) marks the culmination of the United Nation’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. This highlights the urgent need for better support for the increasing numbers of women affected by the scourge of family violence.”

PCLC’s new family violence lawyers have been recruited to play an integral role in the implementation of the new specialist family violence courts at Frankston and Moorabbin. These courts are intended to take a more therapeutic and specialist approach to family violence matters.

Jane’s (not her real name) story is typical of many women helped by PCLC’s family violence lawyers. The Mornington Peninsula resident suffered a long history of psychological abuse and controlling, coercive behaviour at the hands of her long-term partner and father of her two young children. After years of “walking on egg shells”, the turning point came when his aggressive verbal outbursts escalated into physical violence against her and the children. Jane realised that she needed to act to stop the physical and psychological harm being done to her kids and that she needed professional help.

Jane contacted PCLC to help her through the legal system to escape her violent partner.

“The PCLC team has been by my side helping me every step of the way through this nightmare,” Jane said. “It’s hard to list all the ways they helped me get through: from putting intervention orders in place to keep me and my kids safe; settling the separation and divorce; arranging for my lease to be broken when my former partner tracked us down and terrorised us at our new home; providing a financial counsellor and social worker to help us get on our feet again; as well as referring us to family violence support services to help with new accommodation when we had to keep moving to get away from him.”

Jane’s nightmare came to an end recently with the finalisation of all the legal proceedings, meaning she and her children were free to move on with their lives.

A survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that almost one-in-10 Australian women in a relationship experienced domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis.

Anyone needing free confidential legal advice on family violence, family law or other general legal issues is urged to contact the Peninsula Community Legal Centre on 9783 3600.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 8 December 2020


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