Women’s Legal Service Queensland (WLSQ) is concerned with the Federal Government $10 million grants for couples counselling and dispute resolution when there is domestic and family violence (DFV) is dangerous for women and children escaping DFV and is a “step back in time.”
WLSQ CEO Angela Lynch says “it’s like the last 30 years of research into safe responses where there is DFV has not occurred. These decisions seem to have been made in a vacuum without reference to expert practice knowledge”.
The Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board 2016-17 Annual Report found relationship counselling had been undertaken in the lead up to some of the DFV deaths reviewed – yet there was lack of detection or response to abusive behaviours and “in some cases, this further exacerbated the situation by continuing to facilitate contact between victim and perpetrator.”
There are currently no best practice standards for relationship counsellors to guide appropriate and safe responses, when domestic violence is present.
Dispute resolution in the context of DFV is also being funded. WLSQ CEO, Angela Lynch believes that dispute resolution should only ever be undertaken when there is DFV in highly controlled environments, with the involvement of FDV specialist practitioners, legal assistance, and safety mechanisms in place.
“Current grant guidelines contain no conditions in relation to the need for these safety features being present in any of the applications or the need for specialist DFV knowledge. These matters are critical and fundamental to safe practice and should not be left to chance” Ms Lynch said.
“As a minimum, the grant requirements should include adherence to existing state standards for working with women and children affected by domestic violence and The National Outcome Standards for Perpetrator Interventions developed as part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children.”
“When interacting with domestic and family violence perpetrators, heightened mechanisms for oversight and accountability should be built into programs to ensure the safety of victims and minimise the likelihood of deaths.
WLSQ is calling for the Australian Government to immediately review their approach:
1) Completely revising the current grant,
2) Immediately review all current funding under this program,
3) Engage with DFV specialists to consider the most urgent funding and program priorities,
4) Develop best practice standards for relationship counsellors where there is domestic violence and a framework for oversight, compliance and accountability.