Boost for NSW domestic violence services

By AAP Newswire

NSW domestic violence services are set for a funding boost amid concerns the state has experienced a rise in domestic and family violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state and federal governments on Tuesday announced they would invest an extra $21.6 million ($12.8 million from NSW and $8.8 million from the Commonwealth) in tackling domestic violence.

Money will go towards frontline services, women's refuges, and a temporary pop-up safe house in Manly.

The shelter of victims' companion animals, duress alarms for victims who have returned home, and men's behaviour change programs and awareness campaigns will also be funded.

"For many domestic violence sufferers, particularly women and children, staying home isn't safe," NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said on Tuesday.

"They have nowhere safe to go, and that's why this package that's being announced today is so important."

Previously released data on reports to police during the earliest weeks of the pandemic didn't show a spike in domestic and family violence, but Mr Speakman said other data suggested a rise had occurred.

"We have frontline services typically telling us that demand for their services has gone up noticeably and the complexity of that demand has increased," he said.

"Our own department website has numerous pages to assist domestic and family violence victims, and we've seen in the last couple of months a 37 per cent increase in the number of hits that those pages are receiving."

Mr Speakman said Legal Aid was also reporting a 25 per cent increase in usage of its domestic violence legal assistance line.

"Just because something isn't reported doesn't mean it isn't happening," he said.

Northern Beaches Council mayor Michael Regan welcomed the funds for a temporary safe house in Manly.

"This announcement will literally be a life-saver for many in our community who currently have nowhere else to go and cannot stay safely in their own homes," Mr Regan said in a statement.

"Most of us can only imagine what a terrifying experience the isolation of COVID-19 has been for those already suffering in abusive relationships."

Helen Silvia from Domestic Violence NSW said the organisation was anticipating a rise in people accessing services as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and the funding boost was "very much needed".

No To Violence chief executive Jacqui Watt welcomed the funding on Tuesday, particularly the $3 million for organisations that work with men who use violence.

She said the Men's Referral Service has seen an increase in demand during COVID-19 and after the summer bushfire crisis.

"Family violence begins and ends with men," Ms Watt said in a statement.

"If we don't effectively engage and intervene with men who use family violence, we will never be able to keep women and children safe."

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