Women and children’s safety advocates are dismayed to learn that the $10 mil pledged for so-called ‘Specialist Family Violence Services’ is to go to a select list of family relationship services to provide a range of services including couples counselling and mediation with a ‘whole of family approach’.
In the grant documents released today, the services were described as “contribut[ing] to filling the gaps in service provision for victims of domestic and family violence”. However, as WDVCAS NSW Director, Hayley Foster points out, “This flies in the face of years of consultation with women’s safety experts and survivors of domestic, family and sexual violence. We have set out clear guidelines for reform in this sector, and drawn attention to a number of crucial service gaps, neither of which this funding will address.”
The services are said to fall under the twelve-year National Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. Yet, fundamentally, they do not fit with the agreed-upon principles and actions of this plan. “No-where is there the suggestion that we should be going back to the days where we are recommending couples counselling or couples mediation in the context of family violence”, says Foster. “Except in the case of highly specialised family dispute resolution for family law matters involving specialist legal and domestic violence services.”