Prevention at heart of budget adolescent violence and mental help

Tania Maxwell MP says budget funding to tackle the jump in adolescent violence and support young people to access mental health counselling and advice in schools will be vital for rural and regional families and communities.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria said Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency reported a near-12 per cent increase in adolescent family violence incidents recorded by Victoria Police in the five years to February 2020.

“But what’s really alarming is the incidence of adolescent family violence in regional or rural Victoria, where it’s twice as high compared with major cities,” Ms Maxwell said.

“One of the most effective ways to lower this awful statistic is to support primary prevention and early intervention strategies in our schools.

“It is indeed ‘the smarter approach’ described by Treasurer Tim Pallas when he delivered the budget last week (May 20).

“The government’s $44.1 million commitment to help children affected by family violence and sexual assault, including adolescents who use violence at home, will be very welcome when this money hits the ground.

“Because if we don’t fund vital, available initiatives to support prevention we’ll continue to see young people entering the very last place they should be – the justice system.

“The Crime Statistics Agency’s research shows that 80pc of young people following their first aggressor incident go on to have some contact with the justice system, with 52pc shown to be an aggressor in a subsequent family violence incident.[1]

“I’ve worked with the Victorian government and especially with Family Violence Prevention Minister Gabrielle Williams, meeting her in October 2020, and liaised with her office to tackle this surge in adolescent family violence.

“I’ve also had productive discussions with the Australian National Research Office for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), and Caraniche and Berry Street – organisations that work to support vulnerable people and their families – about prevention and early intervention, and I’m looking forward to talking with the Minister again shortly.”

Ms Maxwell also welcomed government funding directed at alleviating homelessness, protecting children, supporting early childhood education, priority mental healthcare program roll-outs in rural areas, boosting the healthcare workforce and investing in emergency management.

“Many of these important initiatives are being funded in Northern Victoria,” she said.

Other key funding

North East

  • $65 million for Indigo North Health’s Rutherglen residential aged care redevelopment
  • $28.9m for Benalla’s new police station, scheduled for completion in 2024
  • $1m to support the early years care and education work of Benalla’s Tomorrow Today Foundation
  • Fast-tracked development of new, local walk-in mental health care service in Benalla
  • Wangaratta is among nine communities to share $17.4m for HOPE – Hospital Outreach and Post-suicidal Engagement – services to support mental health and well-being
  • Mount Beauty Primary School upgrade
  • Funding for new AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs) residential and rehabilitation beds in Wangaratta

North Central

  • Echuca and Swan Hill are among nine communities to share $17m for new mental health care and outreach services
  • An additional $8.3m has been budgeted for a wellness centre in Echuca.
  • Shepparton teaching and leadership academy to be funded from a $148.2m allocation shared by seven regional centres
  • Shepparton GOTAFE upgrade
  • Cobram Primary School, Rushworth P-12 College and Kerang South Primary School upgrades
  • $6.4m Queensland Fruit Fly program strategy funding confirmed

North West

  • $2.1m for Mildura Base Public Hospital master-planning to prepare a business case for the hospital’s redevelopment
  • $48.7m to develop Swan Hill District Health hospital service
  • Mildura teaching and leadership academy to be funded from a $148.2m allocation shared by seven regional centres
  • Underbool Primary School upgrade
  • New Irymple Country Fire Authority station

Central Highlands, Goldfields

  • Bendigo teaching and leadership academy to be funded from a $148.2m allocation shared by seven regional centres
  • Bendigo Youth Prevention and Recovery Care Unit upgrade
  • Gisborne Secondary College upgrade
  • Woodend Black Forest Drive upgrade

South (Mitchell, Yan Yean and peri-urban)

  • Doreen Country Fire Authority facility refurbishment
  • New school site land purchase in Mitchell Shire
  • Mernda community hospital development

[1] https://www.crimestatistics.vic.gov.au/research-and-evaluation/publications/adolescent-family-violence-in-victoria

Image: ABC 2019 Law Report

Tan Maxwell welcomes Benalla police, education funding

Tania Maxwell MP has welcomed the state government’s $28.9 million budget commitment to build Benalla’s new Victoria Police station.

The Member for Northern Victoria said she had first called for funding to replace the “near-unworkable” existing station in August 2019 when she put a question in Parliament to Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville.

“The station was built in 1956 and described by Victoria Police in 2017 as ‘bordering on inoperable’,” Ms Maxwell said.

“Disrepair was obvious, with cracks in walls and ceilings and officers forced to work in portable buildings.

“What stood out for me particularly was the station’s lack of private rooms where victims could speak in confidence and safety.

“The new station will enhance policing capacity and capability in Benalla and the North East and support community safety.

“Like the police officers and staff who work there and people in the community who attend the station, I look forward to completion of the new building on schedule in 2024.

“The funding is a significant win for the Benalla community after 15 years of advocating for an effective policing centre.

“The next step is to scope out a new court complex as the current court house is no longer fit for purpose.”

Ms Maxwell also welcomed $1 million from the budget for Benalla’s Tomorrow Today Foundation.

“This organisation has done so much to build opportunities for families in Benalla and the Midlands through its Parents Early Education Partnership since 2002,” she said.

“Its approach to introduce young children to education and its advantages have been widely recognised, enhancing children’s school readiness with outstanding results.

“This latest funding will help its largely volunteer-led playgroup and early education programs to thrive across the next two years.”

Ms Maxwell in August 2019 invited Education Minister James Merlino, now Acting Premier, to visit Benalla and meet with Tomorrow Today Foundation and explore the potential to roll-out its education and care model in other communities.

Ms Maxwell said the budget also confirmed Benalla as one among 20 communities where a new, local service available to anyone seeking mental health care is to be fast-tracked.

Benalla was recommended because it had Victoria’s highest per capita level of suicide between 2011 and 2020, and one of the highest per capita levels of suicide attempts presenting to hospital emergency departments.

Tania Maxwell pushes more action on digital blackspots

Tania Maxwell MP has again called on the Victorian government to do more to fix mobile phone and internet blackspots in bushfire-prone communities.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria asked Digital Economy Minister Jaala Pulford at the Legislative Council sitting in Bright today about steps the government will take to solve longstanding, ongoing problems with internet connectivity and mobile reception in rural areas.

Ms Maxwell said the Minister’s recognition of citizens’ legitimate concerns and frustrations around coverage issues was welcome but reminded parliamentarians that the 2019-20 bushfires had brought digital communication gaps into sharp focus.

“Indigo Shire chief executive officer Trevor Ierino spoke about these problems very publicly last year when he said the lack of mobile service along major roads in and out of Beechworth, for example, made it near impossible for people in high-risk areas to receive even basic alerts, warnings or updates on conditions,” Ms Maxwell said. 

“The state government must ensure that emergency management considerations are the most critical priority when scheduling mobile blackspot and internet access fixes in Victoria.

“Community members who addressed the parliamentarians here, including Alpine Community Recovery Committee chair Fiona Nicholls, Alpine mayor John Forsyth and Bright P-12 student Claire Lock, pointed to the fear and uncertainty created by ‘app-gaps’ and then by rapidly changing information advising residents to evacuate or to stay put during the January 2020 emergency.

“I was very pleased to hear the Minister confirm that Emergency Management Victoria’s services provide the last piece of advice to government about where funding to fix black spots should be directed.

“I also welcome Minister Pulford’s commitment that regional and rural communities will be extensively consulted about where funding from the government’s $600 million broadband and mobile connectivity program announced in the last Budget, of which $300m is specifically to eradicate black spots, will close critical gaps.”

Justice Party seeks government help to speed housing fix in bushfire communities

Tania Maxwell MP will seek Victorian government support to alleviate the challenges and financial costs still faced by people who lost homes to last year’s Black Summer bushfires when the Legislative Council meets in Bright on April 29.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria said the regional sitting had been convened to acknowledge the fires’ impact in the North East and the serious business and tourism knock-ons from these disasters in communities that she represents, including Alpine, Towong, Indigo, Mansfield, Wangaratta and Wodonga.

“The Victorian government has worked hard to help people back on their feet, but we must be able to expedite rebuilding and recovery,” Ms Maxwell said.

“This includes finding ways to accommodate tradespeople so they can get the job done and families can move into their new homes.

“The fires had an enormous physical impact across our communities, especially in Towong, Alpine and East Gippsland local government areas.

“But mental trauma and stress brought on by these disasters continue for many families.

“Bushfire Recovery Victoria data shows 458 homes were destroyed or damaged in Victoria and almost 18 months later it’s estimated that fewer than three per cent of the people displaced have moved back into permanent housing.

“The motion I’ll put to the sitting encourages us as parliamentarians to recognise the devastation and distress suffered by people in our communities whose homes were destroyed or damaged, who have been living in temporary accommodation and who are going through the arduous process of rebuilding.

“At a practical level, I want Parliament to be keenly aware of the challenges delaying and compromising the re-housing effort.

“Often there are significant financial gaps between insurance pay-outs and the costs of building in a bushfire-prone area, particularly the spending needed so new buildings comply with Victoria’s Bushfire Attack Level ratings system.

“There’s also a severe shortage of readily available accommodation so builders, plumbers, electricians and other essential tradies can deliver what they’re engaged to do in the communities where this help is needed.”

Ms Maxwell said her motion would ask the government to consider urgent changes to policies and regulations to alleviate fundamental, ongoing problems.

“As an elected representative of communities that have been so seriously affected, it’s my job to make sure all parliamentarians understand the personal, economic and community impacts, and for the government to find ways to deliver swift and effective solutions,” she said.

Ms Maxwell said estimates of the fires’ economic impact in eastern Victoria showed:

  • $114-199 million decline across all industries in Alpine, Towong and East Gippsland
  • $79-181m decline across all industries in Indigo, Mansfield, Wangaratta, Wellington and Wodonga local government areas
  • $330-350m in tourism losses in bushfire-affected regions between December 2019 and March 2020.
  • 10,000 livestock lost
  • 742 properties required clean-up

Offering collaboration to reduce family violence

The state government last August committed $1.67 million to a 12-month pilot of the Perpetrator Accommodation Support Service, which allows for family violence offenders to be rehouse away from home for short periods while they receive professional help and supervision. I support the initiative but we need to find ways to make it work practically in rural and regional areas where there are housing and service shortages.

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