Tania Maxwell MP wants to work with the state government so men in rural and regional communities threatening or committing family violence can access supported accommodation while they engage in counselling.
It’s the key to concerns the Member for Northern Victoria will raise with Gabrielle Williams MP, Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, to improve outcomes from the Perpetrator Accommodation Support Service.
The state government last August committed $1.67 million to a 12-month pilot of PASS, which allows for offenders to be rehoused away from home for short periods while they receive professional help for anger, drug and alcohol management and supervision.
“I support the government’s initiative and the safety of families that PASS is designed to deliver, but we need to find ways to make it work practically in rural and regional areas,” Ms Maxwell said.
“I continue to hear that men who are violent in their own homes can’t be accommodated by PASS in our communities because hotel and motel room availability is so scarce.
“It’s a serious matter I put forward to Minister Williams in Parliament on March 16, where I recounted how a man in my electorate had to spend the night sleeping on chairs in a police station’s reception area as no accommodation could be found for him that evening.
“Our communities want to know how the government will work with us to fix this.
“It’s the type of support that’s vital when the latest data shows the incidence of family violence across Victoria increased 9.4 per cent between December 2019 and December 2020.
“I know that COVID restrictions likely contributed to a jump in the number of reports.
“But in too many communities that I represent the increased incidence was much higher – up 18.3pc in Greater Bendigo (680 family violence order breaches), 14.4pc in Macedon Ranges (157 breaches), and almost 17.8pc in Loddon (45 breaches).
“No to Violence, the peak body of organisations that work with men who use violence, reported an 11pc increase in calls to its Men’s Referral Service help line in just four weeks last winter, and this week there’s a media report saying calls to the service are up 21pc for the year to February.”
Ms Maxwell, formerly a youth worker at Wangaratta-based youth and family community agency NESAY, said she also wanted to propose a holistic model for PASS when she meets with Minister Williams.
“To qualify for PASS, a perpetrator should not only take part in behavioural change programs while they benefit from supported accommodation,” she said.
“I’d like to see regular collaboration with local agencies around specific challenges in regional areas, such as housing shortages and wait times for support services, to ensure the program can be implemented to its full effect.
“We need to ensure there are notable improvements in the behaviour of the perpetrator and that other contributing factors are addressed before they return home, as well as ensuring ongoing supports are in place to ensure the safety of the family.”
Ms Maxwell is additionally asking the Minister how the PASS pilot will be evaluated when it ends in July and wants the evaluation to be made public.