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Project tackles domestic violence in regional areas


Regional communities will be mobilised to empower at-risk women and children under a new project to address domestic and family violence in response to COVID.

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Strengthening pathways to safety that have been compromised by the pandemic is a key aim of the initiative, launched last month by Centacare Catholic Family Services in partnership with Flinders University and funded by the Department of Human Services.

The focus is on bringing people together, through activities and other platforms, to challenge gender stereotypes and entrenched behaviours that can disempower women and lead to abuse.

The project will be run from Centacare’s domestic violence and homelessness services in Whyalla, the Limestone Coast, Riverland and Murray Mallee.

Project manager Megan Hughes said the whole-of-community initiative had the potential to relieve pressure on specialist support services.

“Regional domestic and family violence services are increasingly being pushed to the more crisis end of the work due to demand and complexity of client presentations, so there are fairly large gaps in responses due to lack of investment, time and opportunity,” she said.

“We want to work closely with local communities to identify opportunities to introduce or amplify existing mechanisms by which they can scaffold and reinforce the work of domestic violence service providers in their regions.

“There are opportunities for sporting clubs, businesses, community organisations and local government to play an important part in responses, especially in relation to primary prevention.”

Ms Hughes said COVID had exacerbated existing challenges for regional women in unsafe relationships because they were unable to leave their homes or ask for help safely and were isolated from community connections that may previously have offered a pathway to safety.

The eight-month project will assess the effectiveness of whole-of-community responses that challenge gender stereotypes and behaviours that keep women disempowered, and will generate insights into what works across the targeted regions.

“My goal is that by the end of the project, we will have some preliminary plans in place in those regional centres that can support prevention long term,” Ms Hughes added.


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