Hutchins pushes for family violence hub

Natalie Hutchins. Picture: Shawn Smits

Sydenham MP Natalie Hutchins will make the case to Premier Daniel Andrews to have one of 17 new family violence hubs established in Brimbank.

A recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence was for one-stop “support and safety” hubs to be built across the state for victims to find information and support services in their local area.

The hubs would provide police referrals, link victims with specialist support, conduct risk assessments and book victims into crisis accommodation.

The commission’s 1900-page report was handed down in late March and did not provide a costing for its proposals.

But the 2016-17 state budget made good on Mr Andrews’ promise to implement all 227 recommendations with an initial funding boost of $572 million over two years to pay for the most urgent recommendations, including $5 million for the 17 hubs.

Ms Hutchins said that while the hubs’ location had not been announced, she would argue the case to have one set up in Brimbank, in either Sunshine, Taylors Lakes or Keilor.

“The budget is allowing for 17 hubs and more caseworkers,” she said. “I think we have a good case to have one in the Brimbank area.”

She said the Family Violence Response Unit at Keilor Downs police station was being “swamped” with cases.

The dedicated family violence unit was set up at the Keilor Downs station in 2006 to manage and reduce family violence incidents in Brimbank, which are on the rise.

Family violence on the rise

The latest Crime Statistics Agency figures reveal “family incidents” rose by 22 per cent in Brimbank, to 2737 incidents, for the year to December 31, 2015 – up from 2244 the previous year.

And there has been a 62 per cent increase in reported “family incidents” during the past four years.

Chief executive of family violence support agency Women’s Health West Robyn Gregory said her organisation would want the hubs to be built somewhere that was easily accessible by public transport, such as Sunshine.

“I could see Sunshine being a great location because it’s on a major public transport route,” Dr Gregory said.

“Women’s Health West’s main priorities for the hubs are accessibility and that the safety of women and children using its services is prioritised.”

Recommendation 37 from the Royal Commission was to introduce the hubs into each of the state’s 17 Department of Health and Human Services regions by July 2018.

It said the hubs should provide a single intake for specialist family violence services for women and children, and perpetrator interventions.

Prevention of Family Violence Minister Fiona Richardson said work would soon begin on the hubs’ design.

“We’ll be designing them in consultation with victims and the people and organisations who help them.’’