Domestic violence in Western Australia
Sixty three per cent of assaults in Western Australia in 2019 were family and domestic violence-related.
The statistics on gender-based violence in WA are stark. During the 2018-19 financial year:
- 65,609 family and domestic violence-related tasks were logged by WA Police. This equates to, on average, 180 tasks a day in which family or domestic violence was a factor;
- 47,732 reported family and domestic violence incidents were investigated by police;
- 22,142 police orders were issued to protect victims of family violence; and
- 21,380 incidents in which children were exposed to family violence were recorded (a daily average of 59 incidents taking place with children present).
Western Australia has the second highest rate of reported physical and sexual violence perpetrated against women in Australia.
WA Government policy and initiatives
The Western Australian Government takes a comprehensive approach to family and domestic violence to support survivors, break the cycle of abuse , ensure there is a responsive justice system, and provide prevention and early intervention programs. Following is information about some of these initiatives.
The WA Government has launched ‘Path to Safety: Western Australia’s Strategy to Reduce Family and Domestic Violence 2020 – 2030‘ – a new strategy to prevent family and domestic violence across Western Australia, providing a long-term vision for a Western Australia where all people live free from family and domestic violence. It sets out a clear whole-of-government and community plan for reducing and responding to family and domestic violence over the next decade.
The WA Government’s comprehensive family violence law reform package:
- Made non-fatal suffocation and strangulation, dangerous acts of family and domestic violence, a specific criminal offence from 1 October 2020. Research shows that perpetrators who use this potentially lethal type of force against victims are seven times more likely to go on and kill them.
- Made persistent family violence a criminal offence. The introduction of serial family violence offender declarations is enabling courts to declare a person a serial family violence offender, making it easier for the courts and police to identify them and mitigate against the risk of reoffending.
- Includes trialling GPS tracking of high-risk family and domestic violence offenders to reduce risks to their victims. Police statistics show there were 12,014 family violence restraining orders lodged and 4,594 charges laid for breaches of family violence restraining orders in 2019-20.
Funding has been allocated to implementing the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme, an automated information-sharing platform to facilitate enforcement across Australian States and Territories.
The WA Parliament has passed legislation to enable family violence restraining orders and police orders to be automatically recognised and enforced across all Australian jurisdictions.
The WA government has invested in two new refuges, Peel Refuge, now named Warlang Bidi and Kwinana Refuge, now named Andrea Mia, and construction work is underway to double the capacities of these refuges. Andrea Mia provides person-centred integrated responses focusing on delivering services to women with disabilities, older women, women from Aboriginal or culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and women with larger families, including older boys.
‘One-stop hubs’ have been opened in Kalgoorlie and Mirrabooka in Metropolitan Perth to make it easier for victims of family and domestic violence to access services.
At these “one-stop hubs”, integrated and place-based specialist support services are provided to make it easier for victims of family and domestic violence to get the help they need sooner and in one location.
Organisations providing specialist family and domestic violence services and other supports, including mental health, legal, housing, financial and alcohol and other drug counselling have been brought together at each hub.
The McGowan Government has made an election commitment to develop an additional two hubs, one in metro and one in regional WA.
Two men’s residential behaviour change programs have been opened. At the accommodation facilities, men undertaking the programs have access to intensive therapeutic support including group work, individual counselling and case management.
The programs support men to build awareness around the attitudes and behaviours which lead to violence, and gives them the tools for healthy and respectful relationships.
The Respectful Relationships Teaching Support Program is being piloted in 10 schools as a key primary prevention initiative, teaching students about positive and respectful relationships from a young age and preventing domestic violence. The McGowan Government has committed to expand this program into more schools in its second term of government.
The WA Government runs a 16 Days in WA to Stop Violence Against Women campaign, to promote community action to address violence against women and to promote equality and respectful relationships. The campaign starts on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs to 10 December (Human Rights Day).
The WA Government has committed to establish an Aboriginal-led Specialist Family Violence Court in Broome to support Aboriginal women who have experienced violence and provide special interventions for perpetrators.
New tenancy laws to protect family and domestic violence victims have been enacted in Western Australia.
Tenants impacted by domestic violence can leave for safety quickly or choose to stay in a rental home and remove the perpetrator from the lease.
The new laws allow a tenant to end their tenancy with as little as seven days’ notice if they or their dependants are impacted by family and domestic violence.
If a perpetrator is named on a lease, a tenant can make an application to the courts to have them removed from the tenancy agreement.
Other key changes will allow tenants affected by family and domestic violence to:
- Make a rental home safer through lock changes or security upgrades;
- Sort out disputes about property damage, unpaid rent or bonds; and
- Seek removal from, or avoid being listed on, a tenancy database if the listing was because of domestic violence.
The Pets in Crisis program offers a temporary home for pets from households experiencing family and domestic violence, while their owners seek refuge or temporary accommodation of their own.
Individuals and families will often put off fleeing a violent situation due to concerns regarding the safety of their companion animal, with one study reporting that 35 per cent of women delayed seeking refuge for this reason. The McGowan Government has committed to expand this program in Perth and further into regional WA.
The WA Government has granted public sector workers, including casual employees, experiencing family and domestic violence access to 10 days paid Family and Domestic Violence leave.
Australian Government policy and initiatives
The Australian Government has a national plan to reduce violence against women and their children that supports the following initiatives.
1800RESPECT: the National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Service
1800 737 732 / www.1800RESPECT.org.au is a free and confidential telephone and online counselling service staffed by professional counsellors to assist any person who has experienced, or is at risk of sexual assault and/or family and domestic violence.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS)
ANROWS is a national research organisation that aims to build evidence that will guide policy and practice aimed at addressing the high rates of domestic, family and sexual violence against women and their children.
DV-alert is a free nationally accredited training program designed to help health, allied health and community frontline workers better understand and identify domestic and family violence and improve their referral and support skills.
Our Watch is an independent, not for profit organisation established to drive nationwide change in culture, behaviours and power imbalances to prevent violence against women and their children.
Stop it at the Start
Stop it at the Start aims to help break the cycle of violence by encouraging adults to reflect on their attitudes, and have conversations about respect with young people
Services Provided by Family and Domestic Violence Refuges
Services Provided by Family and Domestic Violence refuges include the following:
- Accommodation for women over the age of 18 years who are experiencing or risk of experiencing family and domestic violence
- Case management services to women in accommodation to support their individual needs
- Programs providing education and life skills support that have integrated into them support of participants’ physical and emotional health
- A safety focused program providing support to women and their children who are tenants of WA Housing Authority properties
- The service has supported women to feel safer in their homes through the provision of informal counselling, safety planning, support to attend court and obtain violence restraining orders, referrals to domestic violence counselling and other local support services, installation of household security devises, liaison and advocacy with existing agencies including child protection and family support and the WA Housing Authority.
- Program to improve employment opportunities for women with culturally diverse backgrounds: provides tailored and comprehensive employment and training support for individuals who have experienced family or domestic violence with the goal of economic independence.
- A health focused program run in collaboration with the Department of Justice and the Mental Health Commission that aims to improve the health of women experiencing family and domestic violence who have multiple health conditions, including ones related to alcohol or other drugs.
- Program providing parenting and reintegration-into-society support to women in and leaving women’s prisons in the Perth Metro Area
Refuges offering short term crisis accommodation for women and children who need a safe place to stay
The support provided at refuges includes:
- Emotional support
- Information and referral to relevant services
- Financial support and practical assistance
- Case management
- Conducting risk assessments
- Safety plans
Support and programs aimed at the children living in refuges that have been developed to address the impacts of family and domestic violence on children and with input from child advocates
These services for children include:
- Emotional support
- Referral to relevant services
- Out-of-school activities and school holiday programs
- Homework support
- Art-related activities.
A program providing transitional medium to long term housing in the south-east Perth Metropolitan Area for women and children who are escaping family and domestic violence and who would otherwise have difficulty securing safe, affordable housing.