A reflective piece in response to recent events in Nollamara, WA
By Dr Alison Evans, Director of Domestic, Family & Sexual Violence
CW: this reflective piece discusses men’s violence against women and their children, intimate partner homicide, and content that may distress readers. Crisis line numbers are included at the end of the piece.
Western Australia, and Australia as a whole, has recently experienced an appalling series of domestic and family violence related deaths. The alleged murder of a 26-year-old woman in Nollamara last week powerfully, tragically reminds all of us that we still have a long way to go in ensuring the safety of women and children in our country. This most recent tragic death is also a sharp reminder of the heightened risk women and children face during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is nothing more important than addressing domestic and family violence. The harrowing inquest examining the 2020 deaths of Hannah Clarke and her children – Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey – attests to this.
We must keep victim-survivors safe.
We must hold perpetrators to account.
We must keep confronting the reasons for this violence; to stop it before it occurs.
The case for change in how we prevent and respond to domestic and family violence has been well established. But we focus very little on the workforce that is required to prevent and respond to domestic and family violence as effectively as we can.
There is much that we are doing well, but there is much that we could be doing better to place victim survivors (including children), workers and the community, at the centre of workforce and sector development. The domestic and family violence workforce of the future must be equipped to prevent, as well as respond to, all forms of domestic and family violence, and the individuals that experience or use it. At the core of this must be a valued, skilled, diverse, safe, empowered and supported specialist domestic and family violence and primary prevention workforce.
Workers across the domestic and family violence, prevention, children’s services, broader community services, health, justice and education sectors must be equipped for their particular role in preventing, identifying and responding to domestic and family violence, working with victim survivors as well as their children to maximise their safety and long-term recovery.
Ongoing issues around sustainability, demand and resourcing in the specialist family and domestic violence sector have resulted in high levels of staff turnover and burnout, with extreme difficulties recruiting and retaining experienced staff, and new and inexperienced workers holding significant caseloads, complexity, and risk.
Increases in community awareness and entry points into the system have further increased demand on services, creating rising pressure as services struggle to keep up with an ever-growing client base, and an unprecedented number of high-risk and complex cases that require more time and resources.
Gaps within the current service system, including access to crisis accommodation and long-term housing, are critical and have added to the stress of the service provider system. The complexity of family and domestic violence work means it is vital the sector maintains a high-quality, specialist function. This includes the retention of a highly skilled and healthy workforce.
We will continue to work closely with service providers and community members to advocate for, and build, a system and workforce that keeps women and children safe.
Our deepest thoughts and sympathies are with the family and loved ones of the victim.
In an emergency, or if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call the police now on 000.
If it’s not an emergency and you need support, please contact your local services or contact a crisis line below. These phone services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trained, compassionate professionals are available to help you plan for your safety, connect to available resources and discuss the options that are available to you. The calls are confidential.