By Marjorie Voss OAM
NCWQ Child and Family Adviser
Domestic and Family Violence; Child Abuse and Neglect; Child Sexual Abuse; Elder Abuse; Sexual Abuse and Assault; Bullying; Homelessness; Poverty; and Suicide. I addressed these topics in my report last year, but has anything improved during the last twelve months?
CHILD SAFETY: In June this year the Queensland Government announced it will inject $200 million over four years into the child protection system to fund more child safety staff to reduce caseloads; improve practice and increase support to children, parents and carers. It comes in addition to a number of measures to strengthen child protection and family support that will be progressed in 2017-18 bringing the total budget for child and family services to more than $1.1 billion. New projects are also being rolled out to improve awareness in schools and organisations of Child Abuse (Supporting Families Changing Futures). In my report last year I noted that this was the intention of the Government, and this shows that Child Safety is now a priority and necessary steps are being taken to improve the safety of children.
Although this might help in the protection of children, there is still the need to stop the root cause of abuse. In a report from the ABC in April this year it was stated that one-third of children who came into the care of Queensland’s Department of Child Safety in 2016 had parents who use or have used methamphetamines (ICE). Of the 749 children reported, 59% were neglected; 29% experienced emotional harm; 11% were physically harmed and 1% had experienced sexual abuse. How do we deal with this?
ELDER ABUSE: Seniors Minister Coralee O’Rourke has stated that the Elder Abuse Prevention Unit had received more than 1,500 notifications of abuse (up from approx. 1,300) in the previous year. This could be a positive sign that more people are reporting elder abuse or a negative in that more older people are being abused. The positive side is that the Queensland Government has committed a $2.7 million boost over the next 3 years to expand Elder Abuse prevention and seniors legal and support services to regional and remote areas as well as the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast. It will also include the expansion of the Seniors Enquiry Line, enabling a strong focus on consumer protection and scams. With older people knowing they have support, they are standing up for themselves and proving they will not accept abuse in any form. Sons and daughters rate highest in the Financial and Physical abuse, also grandchildren. Daughters rate highest in Neglect and Psychological abuse. It has been found that Physical abuse reduces in the 60+ age group but Financial abuse increases.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: We know that the numbers relating to Domestic Violence are horrifying. We are informed that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 20 men have experienced violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15. We read that one woman dies every week on account of violence. It has been reported that 71 women died from violence in 2016. Domestic Violence (and any violence) does not affect just two people. It has a devastating effect on children, the extended family and the community. However changes are being made and in 2016 there were 9 fewer deaths than in 2015.
Governments are providing more money and resources to enable the notification of abuse and the access of services. Organisations, community bodies, schools, workplaces, sporting groups and individuals are being urged to take up the Not Now Not Ever challenge to respond to Domestic and Family violence. They are already making a difference across Queensland. Even the smallest act of compassion may not be able to stop Domestic Violence but it can add esteem and make a difference to the life of someone suffering or has suffered Domestic Violence. The ‘No More Silence’ campaign is an initiative that has been developed by the Domestic and Family Committee – Wagga Wagga (DFVC). CADA has been granted permission to re-develop the campaign in the Moreton Bay Region. It has been recognised that quite often women (and men) form a bond with their hairdresser or beauty specialist and will open up to them about problems they wouldn’t normally discuss with family or friends. With this in mind, a resource package has been developed to provide support to practitioners when they are faced with the disclosure of Domestic Violence, to (1) Enable salons to provide what could be crucial information to women who have disclosed their experience of violence and (2) Will provide the women themselves with vital options in relation to support and assistance. Access to this type of information could save the life of a woman or child. This is already working in the region and has shown results. One hairdresser is providing free services to some of the women who have been clients of CADA and this has boosted their self-esteem. She is calling the project “Hairdressers with Heart” and is hoping more hairdressers will join her in providing a service.
NCWQ is continually working towards achieving positive outcomes for the social Issues listed at the beginning of this Report. In June this year NCWQ delegates attended the NCWA mid-term conference in Canberra. Some of the topics covered were – Older Women and Homelessness; Economic Security for Older Women experiencing homelessness; Root cause of violence against women (addressing Pornography, Sexualisation of women in the media, Sex discrimination); Violence against women and homelessness in Indigenous communities and Explicit Sexual Imagery. An interesting mix for discussion of these topics took place with the young women joining the conference for the launch of National Council of Young Women of Australia (NCYWA).
As we endeavor to solve the problems of the Social Issues confronting us, we must be prepared to share our information and ideas, pool our resources and work together for the good of the whole community.