Report wants domestic violence officers at LG peaks

A report has recommended that the federal and state governments chip in to fund the appointment of a dedicated officer at every local government association in Australia to help councils prevent domestic violence.

ALGA President Linda Scott

The report was released by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs on April 1 following its four-month inquiry into domestic violence.

The committee says there’s a role for “much greater” involvement of local government with regard to domestic, family and sexual violence, particularly in prevention and early intervention initiatives.

“The Committee recommends that the Australian Government and each state and territory government co-fund on a 50-50 basis a dedicated family and domestic violence policy officer in each state and territory local government association for an initial period of five years,” the report says.

“The Committee considers (this) … is a cost-effective measure that will assist all councils to implement new initiatives to prevent and respond to violence.

“Further work should also be done to determine what other resources, including additional funding, should be provided to assist councils.”

A ‘game changer’

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has employed a state government-funded officer since 2011 and in 2019 32 Victorian councils funded a dedicated officer for the prevention of violence against women.

LGAQ employed an officer in 2020 under a cost sharing agreement with the state government.

ALGA has estimated the cost of a dedicated officer at $120,000 but told the committee it would be a “game changer”.

During hearings last year the committee heard from councils and peak bodies about the role of local government in preventing and responding to family, domestic and sexual violence.

Victoria is currently the only jurisdiction that places a legislative responsibility on local government in relation to the issue.

However the inquiry was told that regardless of formal responsibilities councils are uniquely placed to have an insight into domestic violence in their communities and an effective interventions.

The Committee found the 2010-2022 National Plan to reduce violence against women and children has failed to achieve any significant or sustained reduction in violence against women and their children.

It makes 88 recommendation to inform the development of the next National Plan due to begin in mid 2022, which is says should directly involve local government.

It also recommends that the independent not-for-profit anti-domestic violence Our Watch be funded for the entire life of the next National Plan.

The federal government is yet to respond to the report.

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