Carley Sparkes, Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, Gabrielle Williams and Jo Patterson. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

IN the wake of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, the Orange Door program was established.

The program resulted in 17 family violence support and safety hubs being rolled out across the State, with Mildura being one of five already operating.

It opened in May last year.

Earlier this week, the Victorian Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, Gabrielle Williams, visited the Mildura Orange Door to meet with management and staff.

The importance of the service the hub provides is underlined by the fact that more than 6750 people across the Mallee have been kept safe from the threat of family violence with help from the Mildura Orange Door.

The Orange Door brings together specialist workers from family violence, child and family and Aboriginal services, as well as services aimed at perpetrators and legal and accommodation advice. 

“So far here in Mildura we have seen almost 7000 people come through the doors looking for assistance, and 3000 of those have been children,” Minister Williams said. “All of the partners of this Orange Door play an integral role in ensuring individuals are referred to the very specific assistance that they need.

“Importantly it brings together the network of services that exist in the community, and in doing so, ensures that people don’t slip through the cracks, and it plays a really important co-ordinating function.”

In answer to a question relating to Mildura ranking number third in State’s crime statistics for family violence incidents per 100,000 population, the Minister referred to the high incidence of domestic violence which was a standout figure in that statistic.

“The Mallee region is the second highest in the State with the prevalence of family violence, and so it is a particular issue here, but in saying that there isn’t a corner of our community that isn’t affected by family violence,” Minister Williams said.

“The Government has embarked on a suite of reforms which are very holistic in the sense of going from prevention to response. This is the only way we are going to end family violence in the long run.”

Member for Mildura Ali Cupper, who joined the Minister, said that the cultural factor was instrumental in her setting up the gender equality portfolio when she was on Mildura Council.

“At every level of influence and leadership it is important that we are making these statements and through a number of ways we need to promote the idea that women are not sub-par to men, because that’s where this starts,” she said.

“There is a social conditioning that happens in all sorts of invisible ways that says women are sub-par, and we need to get on top of that, and that’s why we need everybody to get behind Government initiatives like this, but also our local grassroots initiatives.”

Orange Door manager, Metaxia Tsoukatos, said that the police are the biggest source of referral to the Orange Door’s services.

“More than 3000 of our referrals come from Victoria Police. When police attend a family violence incident, they offer support to both victims and perpetrators and those referrals are waiting for us the next morning when we open the office, and we try to contact those people to offer them assistance,” she said.

“To cope with the demand for our services we have five consulting/interviewing rooms and a lot of our work is also undertaken over the telephone, because we cover the whole of the Mallee. 

“We have a total of 33 staff at the Orange Door, 27 here in Mildura, and six in Swan Hill, and we have an access-point set up in the southern Mallee to provide support to people living in the three Local Government Areas that they cover.”

The Orange Door services are funded by a $448million investment by the State Government as part of $2.9billion funding package aimed at addressing the issue of family violence, and more than half of the Royal Commission’s 227 recommendations have now been implemented.

While in Mildura, the Minister also visited the Mallee Sexual Assault Unit and Mallee Domestic Violence Services (MSAU-MDVS) where she met with CEO Joanne Sheehan-Paterson and staff, including some young women who are undertaking student placements. 

“Increasing student placements is a key part of our work to build the family violence workforce, which we know is incredibly important to the success of our ground-breaking reforms,” Minister Williams said.

MSAU-MDVS is one of six Mallee organisations funded to offer student placements which will see 67 La Trobe University Mildura students in their final year of a Bachelor of Human Services or Masters of Social Work undertake placements through 2019 and 2020.

The placements, which are aimed at growing a diverse and skilled family violence workforce, are part of the Government’s Enhanced Pathways to Family Violence Work Project, under which more than $300,000 has been made available to help the six family violence and community organisations in the Mallee support placements.