IN SIGHT: Mildura Police Superintendent John O’Connor with Mallee Sexual Assault Unit – Domestic Violence Services, CEO Joanne Sheehan-Paterson at the site of the new $10million Multidisciplinary Centre. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

A NEW $10million Multidisciplinary Centre (MDC) will be built on the site of the old Mildura Post Office and former O’Malley’s tavern, located on the corner of Deakin Avenue and Eighth Street, adjacent to Mildura Law Courts and Mildura Police Station. 

The project, that is hoped to be completed in less than three years, will see a number of connected agencies housed under the same roof, including all of the existing sexual assault and domestic violence services and the additional dedicated specialist family violence response services of Victoria Police. 

Mallee Sexual Assault Unit – Domestic Violence Services, CEO Joanne Sheehan-Paterson, whose vision it was to create an all-in-one facility, said it was going to be a much safer environment and offer all of the key services under the one roof.

“Victims of sexual assault and family violence will be able to come to one facility and be able to access a whole suite of services,” she said. 

“The proximity of this location to the courts and Mildura police is ideal, and rear lane access gives added security and privacy – it is going to be a much safer environment.

“This centre will enable those who are, or who have experienced sexual assault, child abuse and or family violence, to have confidential access to the relevant crisis care and ongoing services, from the one location.  

“We will have everything here, forensic medical examinations, an MDC health nurse, special family violence legal practitioners, financial counsellors, family violence police – sexual offences investigation unit, other counselling services and access to refuge and security accommodation.”

The new building, which will retain the heritage-listed facade, will be rebuilt inside, and will have up to three stories added where the various agencies will be accommodated.

Multidisciplinary Centres (MDCs) were established in response to recommendations from a Law Reform Commission inquiry into Victoria’s sex offence laws and related procedures. 

In February 2007, Mildura was one of the first MDCs to open through a pilot project that focussed on enhancing the responses to sexual offences and child abuse victims.

The co-located specialist investigative police from the Sexual Offence and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCIT), expert sexual assault counsellors (CASA), forensic medical staff and child protection practitioners (DHHS) to work together to provide coordinated responses to victims/survivors affected by sexual offences, child sexual abuse and/or child abuse.

Mildura Police Superintendent John O’Connor said the new centre was a facility that was required to deal with the issues faced by victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“It will be a game changer – a one-stop-shop to process the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in our community,” he said.

“Those people will be able to come in and receive counselling and report matters to police and receive financial assistance. Whatever they need, it can be done in this building under the one roof, instead of having to go from building to building and service to service – everyone will be working together in the same space to create the best outcomes for victims.”

Supt. O’Connor said that the new MDC will be a state-of-the-art facility, probably the best of its kind in Victoria, and possibly the eastern seaboard.

“Plans are well under way for the purpose-built facility which will enhance the coordinated response to sexual assault, child abuse and family violence,” he said.

“There has always been a strong correlation between family violence, sexual assault and child abuse reporting and the new facility will deliver significantly better outcomes for those affected by these crimes. 

“I take my hat off to Joanne’s leadership and her team who have had the vision to be able to do this.”

Supt. O’Connor said the other tangible benefit to the community would be the project build, which will support the broader community and local economy.

“It will stimulate the economy, it’s fantastic for the community. It will be about a $10million build – employing local people – that’s money into the local community, benefitting everyone from the local sandwich shop, to building suppliers,” he said.

“Importantly, of course, it’s about seeing the best outcomes for victims of these crimes and ultimately preventing them from occurring.” 

Mildura Mayor and former Mildura police officer, Councillor Simon Clemence, said having the combination of police and the other agencies in the same location would mean victims of abuse will be more likely to want pursue the perpetrators of the crimes, which currently doesn’t always happen.

“The family violence and criminal activity should be dealt with in the first instance, and the new MDC will create an environment where that can happen, with the police units and the different agencies being able to more efficiently interact,” he said.

“This will also have the effect of hopefully preventing and reducing the opportunity further abuse and repeat offending against the victims – it’s going to see a significant improvement in outcomes for victims.”