More Campaspe women fleeing violence into homelessness

By Ivy Jensen

A RISING number of women across Campaspe Shire are fleeing abusive relationships only to become homeless because of the lack of social housing.

It is putting women and children at risk of returning to violent households.

Chief executives from family violence, homelessness and community agencies across Victoria recently sent a joint letter the Premier demanding action to eliminate homelessness caused by family violence by fully implementing recommendations from the Royal Commission.

‘‘We know that becoming homeless is one of the most common reasons women and children are forced to return to violent relationships,’’ Domestic Violence Victoria spokesperson Alison Macdonald said.

Centre for Non-Violence works with many women across Campaspe who are homelessness or facing homelessness as a result of family violence.

And client services general manager Yvette Jaczina said family violence was the leading cause of homelessness for women and children in Australia.

‘‘Our staff are dedicated to supporting women and their children into housing when that is needed,” Ms Jaczina said.

“However, all too often we have no medium or long-term housing options available due to a shortage of supply and even the emergency or crisis accommodation is not suitable.

‘‘This is most apparent in regional and rural areas. This is a sector wide issue; we see local housing services struggle with the same issue and despite Royal Commission recommendations for priority housing for victims of family violence, the reality is we cannot source housing for many victims of family violence. We need more affordable housing options.’’

And without options, homeless women were at risk of returning to abusive relationships, Ms Jaczina said.

‘‘A lack of housing options, both medium term and long term, is a factor in decision-making for women who are victims of family violence,’’ she said.

‘‘Women do return or are less able to leave a violent partner when housing options are unavailable to them.’’

The Victorian Housing Register has 542 applications with Echuca as a preference.

A Department of Housing spokesman said finding new, stable housing was crucial for Victorians escaping family violence, which was why they were one of the key groups prioritised for placements into social housing.

‘‘We’ve also built new family violence refuges across the state, including one in the Goulburn Valley, to provide immediate crisis accommodation and are helping large numbers of women escaping family violence find housing in the private rental market,’’ the spokesman said.

‘‘We know there’s more to do and we’ll continue delivering on all the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence – with more than half a billion dollars still flowing into these initiatives over the next four years.’’

Family violence continues to be rife across Campaspe, with the shire having the second-highest number of police reports of family violence in the Loddon area.

Ms Jaczina said the centre had received more than 400 police referrals for family violence victims across Campaspe in 2019-20.

Which was an increase of about 18 per cent from the previous year.

‘‘CNV also receives referrals from other sources, including other services and women also seek support directly and we have seen a steady increase of the number of women we support over the last few years,’’ Ms Jaczina said.

‘‘This data made up part of the decision-making in relation to the introducing an Orange Door Access Point in the local government area.

“This is in development and will occur in 2020.’’

Following the Royal Commission’s recommendations in 2016, Ms Jaczina said the first significant change for CNV was increased funding — recognition the specialist family violence sector was managing a huge demand with low levels of funding.

‘‘This funding increase provided CNV with the opportunity to expand its service delivery and establish a full-time presence in Campaspe,’’ she said.

‘‘Since this expansion, the Campaspe service has grown again.

“The focus on family violence and the investment in training and multi-agency practice approaches, particularly around risk, have enabled CNV to work more closely and collaboratively with other services to ensure victims, adults and children are well supported, are safe and perpetrators of family violence have a systems response.’’