Anglicare SA

We all must work together to eradicate domestic violence

The tragic and disturbing news of the alleged murder of Adeline Yvette Rigney-Wilson and her two children further highlight the devastating reality and prevalence of domestic violence in our community.

On Thursday morning our Police Commissioner revealed that at least seven South Australian women and children had died due to domestic violence so far this year and there was a further six last financial year. It goes without saying that one death is one death too many.

Domestic and family violence is a complex and multi-faceted issue that is affected by a range of other social impacts, including mental health, homelessness, high and complex needs, cultural background and the connectedness of families and communities.

It can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or wealth, where they live or their cultural background. Domestic and family violence, in all forms, is a violation of basic human rights.

Each year, AnglicareSA support no less than 2500 women who are experiencing domestic violence. In reality the number of people needing support is much greater. We know that more than 9,000 women in South Australia were provided with crisis support last year. On average, across Australia, one woman is killed by her partner every week.

There is a direct nexus between culture and community attitudes, and the continued prevalence and perpetration of domestic and family violence. Attitudes, knowledge and beliefs of individuals and communities can and do create a culture that justifies, excuses, trivialise or even condones or encourages domestic violence.

Culture and attitudes affect the ability of victims to report violence and seek help, and influence the willingness of the community to hold perpetrators to account.

It affects the behaviour of the professionals within our police, justice, welfare and service-provider systems when called on to deal with and respond to domestic and family violence. Importantly, culture and attitudes inform and influence the decisions of bystanders to either intervene or ignore incidents of domestic and family violence.

To address these attitudes, we need planned collaboration between related sectors and joint funding initiatives across the health, criminal justice and child protection systems with front line service provision agencies. No one group can change this on their own.

We also need legislative reforms to institutional structures and practises to provide better protection and support to victims and greater accountability for perpetrators.

Our support services and justice systems must grow and evolve to provide better protection, more comprehensive support and strong accountability to victims and perpetrators, bringing about cultural change, but just as importantly, delve into pragmatic reforms to institutional structures and practice.

This will require education within the system, education for the victim and perpetrator and their rights and responsibilities around intervention orders in particular, and legislative changes to judicial processes and policing processes and the legal system support available to individuals and families.

Early intervention initiatives are extremely important and are evolving, but we must focus and place a higher emphasis on prevention and be willing to work together to eradicate this shameful epidemic.

CEO Peter Sandeman.