by Adam Falloon
The Women’s Information and Referral Exchange (WIRE), a feminist organisation based in West Melbourne, has enjoyed a recent success with the Victorian Government announcing that all public servants would have access to family violence support. These provisions will be enacted through their industrial agreement.
The announcement follows a recommendation that WIRE made to the Family Violence Royal Commission.
Deputy CEO, Julie Kun, has stated that the initiative will “assist countless women experiencing family violence who may currently feel unable to seek support from their employer and colleagues,” but calls for further action to be taken through public awareness campaigns to encourage private business to take up similar provisions.
“Ending family violence should not be the responsibility of the women being abused. We need every citizen – including every employer – to help end the scourge on our society which is family violence.”
For those women struggling with the threat of family violence, maintaining a healthy and supportive relationship with their employer is often critical for gaining independence from an abusive partner.
WIRE reports that between 80% and 90% of women seeking assistance from family violence services have experienced financial abuse. This financial abuse can take a number of forms, including preventing the woman attending work, embarrassing or threatening to embarrass them in their place of work, or assaulting or threatening to assault them or their colleagues.
The Victorian Government is the state’s largest employer, and the new provisions will extend benefits to a large number of public employees, including teachers and nurses.
The Royal Commission into family violence began in February 2015 and the full report and recommendations to the government will be made at the end of February next year. Four weeks of public hearings concluded on August 14 and the commission anticipates a further hearing to be held in October.
In addition to the Royal Commission, the state government unveiled plans in May this year to develop a Victorian Family Violence index – a world first.
Intimate partner violence is responsible for more ill-health and premature death in Victorian women under the age of 45 than of any other well-known risk factors, including high blood pressure, obesity and smoking. Of the health impact experienced by women who have suffered domestic violence, 59% is anxiety and depression.
Domestic violence costs the Australian economy more than $3 billion each year.
WIRE is a small, non-profit organisation run by women and offers a range of services including information, referrals, advocacy and gender-specific training programs. For those wishing to give support, WIRE accepts volunteers for a number of different support roles and also offers an annual membership, allowing subscribers the opportunity to attend WIRE events.
Women’s Information and Referral Exchange
Phone: 1300 134 130
372 Spencer Street, West Melbourne 3003
From North and West Melbourne News Issue 170 September 2015 – Community Section