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Improve family violence support services to culturally diverse communities

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
17 January 2022

Tragically, last week, we lost another woman and child from our community to a horrific act of family violence.

My love and deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Poonam Sharma who was killed alongside one of her daughters in this senseless act of violence in Melbourne's north. This is beyond heartbreaking and devastating. 

This horrific incident is a brutal reminder of the need to improve family violence support services to Victoria's culturally diverse communities.

Victoria still does not have a culturally specific refuge for women trying to escape life-threatening situations. And while we wait, more women continue to die.

I will continue to lobby government for more urgent funding and support.

To find out more on recent actions taken on this issue, please read on below. 


LETTER TO THE MINISTER (17 January 2022) 

In the following letter to the Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, I urge the Government to expand culturally specific family violence support services immediately:

Dear Minister,

Our community has tragically lost another woman and child to a horrific act of family violence over the last week. As you would be aware, Poonam Sharma and her daughter Vanessa were killed in a senseless act of violence in Melbourne’s north. This incident is another brutal reminder about the need for the urgent expansion of family violence support services to Victoria’s culturally diverse communities.

I appeal to you to provide an immediate funding boost to culturally specific family violence response services and establish Victoria’s first culturally specific women’s refuge for those escaping dangerous situations. 

At a forum I recently hosted with community organisations on improving family violence response services for culturally diverse communities in Victoria, the need for an expansion of culturally specific services emerged as the most immediate need along with the following recommendations: 

  1. That the Victorian Government fund the establishment of a culturally specific women’s refuge in Victoria. 
  2. That the Victorian Government allocate more funding to culturally specific women’s family violence services so that they are able to provide family violence interventions and response services. 
  3. That the Victorian Government develop a program of training and capacity building for culturally specific family violence support to increase the ability of paid staff and volunteers to provide effective frontline support to women experiencing family violence from culturally diverse communities. 
  4. That the Victorian Government review the way funding is allocated to culturally diverse organisations and ensure that there is flexibility for the organisation to design and deliver culturally specific approaches to family violence within any funding agreement.
  5. That the Victorian Government ensure that there is a continuity of funding to culturally specific family violence support services to ensure they are able to build the capacity of their organisation and continue to provide services to the community. 
  6. That the Victorian Government review and update how it classifies and recognises acts of family violence that may be specific to particular communities (for example: dowry abuse) to ensure that women who are subject to these abuses are supported appropriately and not further disadvantaged by the arbitration and justice systems if these experiences are not recognised. 
  7. That the Victorian Government create formal mechanisms that facilitate meaningful collaboration between grassroots community organisations providing family violence response services to ensure knowledge and resources are shared.

I have recently written to the Treasurer seeking the Victorian Government’s support for these funding requests and ask that you urgently advocate for and lend your support to community organisations that continue to work on the frontlines of the scourge of family violence impacting our culturally diverse communities. 

I would appreciate your urgent consideration of these recommendations and kindly ask that you meet with culturally specific family violence support service providers as soon as possible to discuss their concerns and strategies for ending violence against women.  

Read a PDF version of the letter here.


REPORT ON IMPROVING FAMILY VIOLENCE RESPONSE SERVICES FOR CULTURALLY DIVERSE COMMUNITIES IN VICTORIA

On Thursday 16th September 2021, I hosted a forum on how to improve support services for women from culturally diverse communities who experience family violence. The aim of the forum was to identify the gaps in funding and support for culturally specific family violence response services. 

We heard from leading community organisations, multicultural community leaders and victim survivors about the models of family violence intervention and support that need to be expanded in Victoria. It was moving to hear from grassroots organisations who have worked for years to support women escape violence — with very little funding or government support. 

Victoria still doesn't have a culturally specific women's refuge and it is something we really need here. I will continue to work with these organisations and lobby Government for more urgent funding and support.

Following the forum, we published a report outlining our key findings and recommendations. 

Read the report here.

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
17 January 2022
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