No to Violence (NTV) welcomes Coroner Audrey Jamieson’s findings into the death of Fiona Warzywoda and will work with Victoria Police to review procedures and change processes to ensure the maximum protection for victims of family violence.
No to Violence Chief Executive Officer Jacqui Watt said NTV would also work with the Federal Court of Australia to develop clear guidelines and policies for referral to the Family Advocacy and Support Service, as recommended by the Coroner.
“The safety of partners, women and children is central to the work of No to Violence. Together with police, we will review the referral processes to ensure we are able to work and engage with men who use violence,” Ms Watt said.
“This is an issue across Australia and we work in NSW and Tasmania with the same challenges. The whole family violence system has to get better at working with men who use violence and holding them to account.”
No to Violence runs the Men’s Referral Service which provides telephone counselling, information and referrals 7 days a week, and is the central point of contact for men being held accountable for their violent behaviour.
No to Violence also runs the Family Advocacy and Support Service, which supports people affected by family violence in the Family Law Registry in Melbourne, and shortly also in Dandenong. (1)
Ms Watt said No to Violence has been working with the family violence reforms in Victoria and has always believed that the engagement of men needs to improve.
“Our workers seek to engage men who are pursuing issues through the Family Court,” she said. “We seek to provide a contact point for him, to assist in the thinking about what is best for the family and to ensure we identify the risk he is posing to his partner or children.”
In 2014 Men’s Referral Service received a police referral (form L17) regarding Ms Warzywoda’s ex-partner, Craig McDermott. On the form a box was ticked stating that “police have not contacted the respondent”.
Under NTV procedures, Men’s Referral Service only contacts men after police have formally notified him that a family violence order has been taken out against him. This is the same procedure in New South Wales and Tasmania.
Ms Watt said this was aimed at minimising the potential risk to the victim.
“This is our policy based on our assessment of high risk if a man learns from Men’s Referral Service, instead of from police, that a report of violence has been made against him,” Ms Watt said.
McDermott was not contacted by Men’s Referral Service because the form stated he had not been formally notified by police.
While the Coroner found NTV’s assessment and existing policy was sound, she recommended No to Violence and Victoria Police implement a system to monitor L17 referrals to ensure No to Violence can contact the man.
“No to Violence is keen to work with Victoria Police to review procedures to ensure the maximum protection of family violence victims,” Ms Watt said.
This would include raising awareness with police about the importance of updating the L17 referral if subsequent contact is made with the man. That way, services such as Men’s Referral Service would contact him directly and immediately.