Family Violence Prevention Strategy | City of Casey
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15 May 2018

Family Violence Prevention Strategy

Version 1.0

Purpose

Our vision is for the City of Casey to be a family-friendly city where women and children feel safe in their homes and neighbourhoods, and live free from family violence.

Causes of family violence

This strategy recognises the well-established drivers of family violence,14 (which are articulated in Change the Story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia).

These are:

  • Tolerance for, and the condoning of, violence against women.
  • Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public and private life.
  • Rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity.
  • Male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.

Reinforcing and contributing factors in family violence

Many of the factors underlying or contributing to family violence are serious health and social problems in their own right. These include alcohol and illicit drug use, male peer relations that condone aggression and disrespect towards women, and poverty that gives rise to relationship conflict and poor parenting.

Male violence against women and children is primarily the result of a violence- supporting culture and gender inequality in broader society. This violence can be triggered in families by daily economic and social pressures as a result of housing affordability stress, travel to work time and social isolation; often in combination with alcohol and drug misuse. However, family violence is never excused by any of these factors15.

The scale of the problem

Every week, at least one woman is murdered in Australia by her current or former partner. Interpersonal violence contributes to more preventable death, disability and illness for women between the ages of 15 – 44 in Victoria than any other preventable risk factor, and men’s violence against women is present in all parts of society16. Whilst violence against women occurs in a variety of settings, it most commonly occurs in the home.

The City of Casey has a significant family violence problem. For the past five years, the City of Casey has consistently had the highest number of reported family violence incidents among all Victorian municipalities. Casey also has the highest number of reported family violence offences with the presence of alcohol. More broadly, Casey consistently ranks among the highest areas for police calls for alcohol-related offences.

Police data provides the most localised statistics relating to family violence. In the City of Casey alone, 12 family incidents are dealt with every day by Victoria Police, which equates to 4,369 incidents per year. It is also important to acknowledge that Parliamentary research indicates that less than one third of women contact the police following a violent incident19, therefore the true rate of incidents is likely to be much higher.

There is a ripple effect of family violence on women’s and children’s relatives, friends and peer groups, workplaces and communities. Women who are experiencing family violence are at risk of poverty, dislocation, social isolation and loss of community.

Children’s exposure to domestic and family violence affects their behaviour at home and in their community, their learning and behaviour at school, their cognitive development, mental and physical wellbeing. The transgenerational consequences of family violence include economic hardship, drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness, which have a compound effect over time.

Table 1 demonstrates the rates of reported family violence incidents within the City of Casey per 100,000 people, with comparisons to the Southern Metropolitan Region and Victoria. Note; This data captures domestic incidents of physical and sexual violence, it does not capture all incidents of gender-based violence. These figures are not inclusive of non-disclosure, nor of data collected by family violence service providers.

Table 1: Comparative family violence rates 2011-2016
  City of casey City of greater dandenong Cardinia shire Southern metro region Victoria
2011-12 1176 1257 1216 844 887
2012-13 1254 1530 1408 1010 1056
2013-14 1318 1416 1353.5 995 1116
2014-15 1291 1383 1450 1054 1192
2015-16 1437 1443 1494 1109 1285

Figure 4 below illustrates these rates visually, demonstrating that the City of Casey has a consistently higher rate of family incidents per 100,000 in comparison to the Southern Metropolitan Region in Melbourne, and to Victoria overall.

Family incident rates
Figure 4: Family incident rates per 100,000 recorded by Victoria Police. 

Scope

The City of Casey has had a longstanding commitment to promoting gender equity and preventing family violence. Key learnings from our work in this space, together with evidence in the literature regarding what works to prevent violence against women, has led us to develop a bold and innovative Family Violence Prevention Strategy and Action Plan for the City of Casey. The Strategy demonstrates our strong commitment to the prevention of family violence in the Casey community and more broadly.

This strategy describes how we will strive towards an integrated, whole of Council approach to the prevention of family violence in the City of Casey. As the level of government closest to the community, Council is mandated to create healthy, safe and inclusive communities.

This strategy’s definition of violence against women is shared with Change the Story, the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 and the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993). It is:

Any act of gender based violence that causes or could cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of harm or coercion, in public or in private life.3

Strategy

Local Government is in a unique position of having enormous reach, influence and access to our local communities through the various services and functions that we provide. The City of Casey works closely with individuals, families, community organisations, local businesses, sporting clubs and faith communities. We impact the community via planning, facilities and infrastructure provision, as well as promoting key messages that influence community attitudes. This puts the City of Casey in a position to be able to provide a whole of community response, from identifying those at risk of violence to addressing the broader determinants of violence.

Councils play a central role in promoting peaceful, healthy and safe environments due to their work with a whole range of services and sectors. We can work to prevent violence against women in many practical ways through our role in:

  • Local leadership
  • Planning
  • Developing facilities and creating safe public environments
  • Service provision, and
  • As an employer and procurer.

Local Government community services such as Maternal and Child Health, Early Childhood Services, Youth Services and Home and Community Care, also work directly with individuals at risk of experiencing violence and are an essential part of the family violence response system.

The City of Casey Council Plan 2017-2021 recognises that family violence is one of the most significant community safety issues within the municipality, and aims to provide an inclusive, safe and connected community, and a Council where services and facilities are driven by community needs. 

Alignment of Council plans
Figure 1 illustrates how this Strategy and Action Plan are aligned with Council’s other strategic plans. 

Violence against women is an urgent public health and human rights issue that also has direct and indirect impacts on children11. Many children and young people witness violence in their homes, with one in four young people reportedly having witnessed an act of physical violence against their mother or step-mother.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' (2014) Personal Safety Survey reports that:

  • Of those women who had experienced violence by a current partner, 54% had children in their care at the time of the violence and 31% of the children had seen or heard the violence.
  • Of the women who had experienced violence by a former partner, 61% had children in their care at the time of the violence and 48% of the children had seen or heard the violence.
  • Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for children in Australia.
  • Studies have found that exposure to domestic and family violence can affect a child's mental wellbeing and contribute to poorer educational outcomes and a range of behavioural issues12.
  • It is estimated that Victorian Aboriginal women are 45 times more likely to experience family violence than non-Aboriginal women.13

This Strategy is underpinned by the understanding that gender inequity is a key driver of family violence and that gender-based violence has multiple causes. This is best conceptualised in a socio-ecological model (Figure 3), which is a useful way to understand individual behaviour in a social context and demonstrates the interactive nature of a range of key factors.

Socio-ecological model
Figure 3: Socio-ecological model.

Building on our history of working to prevent family violence

The City of Casey has identified family violence as a key priority for the community which has resulted in some innovative work, highlighted below:

Primary prevention

The City of Casey was the first amongst a small number of Councils to begin to address the issue of Preventing Violence Against Women from 2004. The issue was identified and prioritised for action by the (former) Safer Casey Partnership – a strategic partnership of Council to address safety issues within the municipality. Since this time, a number of initiatives have progressed to prevent violence against women.

Challenge Family Violence Project 2013- 2015

This project was delivered by a partnership between the City of Casey, Cardinia Shire, City of Greater Dandenong and Monash Health. One component of the model focused on equipping and supporting influential male community leaders to prevent violence against women by promoting respect, non-violence, gender equity and challenging sexism, male privilege and aggressive masculinity within their sphere of influence.

The other component of the model focused on faith leaders. A resource was developed to enable faith leaders to have discussions about family violence prevention within their faith communities, and to effectively identify and challenge systems, structures, attitudes and beliefs that can contribute to family violence.

Promoting Peace in Families Project 2007-2009

This project provided a model for faith communities to be actively involved in the prevention of violence against women. The model included sermons, studies, policies and training to equip faith leaders to address the issue within the faith setting. The Promoting Peace in Families won an Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Award from the Attorneys-General Department in 2009.

Casey Men’s Action Team

This consists of men in leadership positions within Council who provide education and support within the organisation for the implementation of strategies to raise awareness about the prevention of violence against women.

Advocacy

In 2016, the City of Casey partnered with local Victoria Police to object to Victoria’s licensing regulator about the establishment of a new Dan Murphy liquor outlet in Cranbourne East. The submission argued that in a locality that experiences high levels of alcohol-related behaviour including family violence, there are likely to be negative effects on individuals and communities from another large retail alcohol outlet. Casey is now working with six other Councils, police and welfare groups in Melbourne’s south-east to advocate changing licensing laws so that the social impact of alcohol can be considered in planning applications.

International Women’s Day

Council supports an internal annual event on March 8th to celebrate International Women’s Day. From 2018, this event will involve the community.

White Ribbon Day

This annual event on November 25th is for Council staff to take the White Ribbon Oath, increase awareness of the issue of family violence, and acknowledge the achievements of women. Partnerships have been established with Council corporate partners, encouraging contractors to demonstrate leadership. Visible messages are displayed on banners, Cleanaway trucks and through public events.

Male leaders are encouraged to apply to become White Ribbon Ambassadors to develop male leadership in the organisation around family violence prevention. Male leaders challenge other men to evaluate their attitudes and behaviours toward women.

Promoting female leadership within our community

Council is committed to promoting and celebrating female leadership both within the City of Casey staff and throughout our community.

Banners

Following a collaborative project between the Communications and Safer Communities Departments, banners promoting Casey’s stance against family violence have been erected in October 2017 across the municipality. “Casey Says No to Family Violence” banners will be displayed across the municipality during November for White Ribbon Day and the 16 days of activism which follow.

Applied gender analysis training

Training is provided to Council staff to increase knowledge and skills to apply a gender lens over services, policies and programs.

Local Laws: Early intervention model

City of Casey’s Local Laws was the first local government within Australia to respond to the link between family violence and animal abuse. A ground-breaking model was developed which included:

  • Training for Local Laws officers to understand family violence and identify risk.
  • Establishing referral pathways.
  • Partnerships developed with the local Police Family Violence Unit.
  • Policies and standard operating procedures updated to respond to the issue.
  • Supporting housing of animals at risk during periods of family relocation following family violence incidents.

This model has been presented to over 200 Local Laws officers across Victoria and won an LGPro Award for Excellence in 2014.

Maternal and Child Health Service: Prevention, identification and response

The Maternal and Child Health Service identify women who are at risk or are currently experiencing family violence. All staff are required to ask at their initial contact with the family, or when it is deemed appropriate to do so, whether there are any concerns in regard to family violence. If this is identified as an issue, the staff member will complete a Safety Plan with the family members involved and refer on to appropriate services such as the Enhanced Maternal and Child Health Service or other Family Violence agencies.

All families receive a copy of the Family Violence Resource Card at their first contact visit which is then placed in the child’s ‘green book’. This card contains information of what is family violence, the types of family violence and where the person can receive help.

Baby Makes 3

Baby Makes 3 is community-based program designed to assist first-time parents to adapt to the demands and expectations of parenthood and promotes equal and respectful relationships during the transition to parenthood.

The City of Casey offers Baby Makes 3 to all new parents through the Maternal Child Health Service, in partnership with ParentZone.

Council supports its own staff from across the organisation, to be facilitators of the Baby Makes 3 program, as part of its corporate social commitment to community volunteering.

Our action plan for preventing family violence

An internal action plan accompanies this strategy, designed around seven guiding principles and five strategic directions that build on these Council roles to prevent family violence.

Seven guiding principles

  1. Every person who lives, works and visits Casey deserves to feel safe, and safety for women and children is paramount.
  2. We will ensure a safe and inclusive community that includes people being safe in their homes, workplaces and educational institutions.
  3. Our local leadership means a commitment to addressing family violence at multiple levels of decision-making across all council business units.
  4. Our community facilities are inclusive environments that promote gender equity.
  5. We will use evidence informed data and programs to address violence against women and children.
  6. Our planning will integrate actions to reduce family violence across Council, agencies and the community.
  7. We will work in partnerships to demonstrate leadership in resourcing and coordinating of strategies with our partners across a spectrum of services and settings.

Five strategic directions

These five strategic directions are directly linked to taking action on the causes of family violence and the four key drivers detailed in Section 3.1 of this document from Change the Story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia22.

Community participation programs

  • We will support programs that promote and encourage women and girls’ participation in community life in the City of Casey.
  • We will provide programs that strengthen positive, equal and respectful relations between and among women, men, girls and boys.

Partnerships to foster collaboration

  • We will establish effective partnerships across government and non-government agencies and engage in mutually reinforcing activities to prevent family violence.

Community engagement and action

  • We will mobilise and support Casey communities to address the social norms that make family violence acceptable in their communities.

  • We will take action on tackling rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity and address broader community-level factors contributing to family violence.

Council leadership

  • We will strive to demonstrate that the City of Casey is a violence prevention leader by fostering strong organisational and community cultures for the prevention of family violence, through leadership, planning, operational actions and building of capacity internally and externally.

Research and advocacy

  • We will undertake strategic advocacy at the Commonwealth, State and local levels that support and promote the prevention of family violence.
  • We will undertake research, monitoring and evaluation of our policies and programs for their impact on the causes of family violence, to ensure continuous improvement.