By Blake Han, Master of Professional Accounting and Finance in UniSA, currently studying Bachelor of Laws (Honour) in UniSA and University of Adelaide, and Rights Resource Network Volunteer
Family violence has been a strong area of advocacy within our community, given its long-term significant negative impact on individuals, community welfare, and public confidence. Coercive control behaviours, child abuse and sexual assault are different forms of abuse of violence that are linked and interrelated in our community, casting a long shadow on victim’s mental health. These issues were discussed by a group of academic experts, lawyers, service providers and survivors at the Rights Resource Network SA’s international human rights day event on 10 December 2020, where it was agreed that this area was in need of further targeted research, community education and legislative reform.
The discussions included a focus on the adequacy of South Australia’s existing approach to apprehended violence orders and other forms of legal interventions. Concerns were raised that the current provisions are not fit for purpose, as they are not operating adequately to keep families, individuals, children and survivors safe from family violence and/or other forms of abuse. The situation is particularly acute for women with low socio-economic status or women of non-English speaking backgrounds, such as women living in South Australia on temporary visas. The workshop participants agreed that the current apprehended violence order regime requires reform to better meet the needs of those experiencing or at risk of family violence, including improving the application and enforcement process.
However, changing the law will not fully address gaps in the existing family safety regime in this state, or secure the rights of families at risk. Improving safety infrastructure is critical, and includes addressing housing, financial security and childcare, as well as considering parental access under family law agreements or orders. Improving awareness among the broader community is also essential, including a recognition that experiences of family violence can have an ongoing, lifelong impact. Rebuilding trust between survivors of family violence, and the services and government agencies upon which they rely, should also be a priority in South Australia’s response to family violence. This requires meaningful engagement with survivors of family violence in all aspects of policy design and implementation, as well as adequate resourcing of support services.
In the coming year, the Rights Resource Network SA intends to collect and revisit relevant research on the most effective responses to family violence in South Australia and utilize the expertise of its members, particularly those with lived experience, to offer a range of reform options for policy makers and lawmakers to consider. If you would like to be involved in this important project, please join the Rights Resource Network SA today or contact Dr Sarah Moulds on firstname.lastname@example.org.