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Victoria: Royal Commision into family violence

Victoria's royal commission into family violence will focus on improving a system that is struggling to cope with the sheer volume of people who need help, the inquiry's head says.

Commissioner Marcia Neave said the year-long inquiry would examine how to better protect people, prevent violence and hold perpetrators to account.

Domestic violence is not the only thing in Victoria struggling with the "sheer volume of people" that need services.

(image:"20081123120727-violencia-de-genero" by Concha García Hernández - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

At nearly 2% of population growth, this massive increase of over 100,000 new people each year is causing clashing waves and tremors, disruption a once dignified city, and peaceful State.

Victoria's Premier, Daniel Andrews, has vowed to jail family violence thugs, make intervention orders easier to get and enforce tough new laws to make women and children safe. These are bold words, and chest-thumping promises, but he will be hard-pressed in light of Victoria's pressure-cooker environment.

The dystopia of unemployment, the uselessness of searching for non-existent jobs, pressure on house prices and mortgages, cuts to education, and the stresses of having to cope with many changes and impacts of course causes violence and crime! There's no predictability, stability, assurances of a future, and pressures on individuals and families for survival.

Our population has grown from 4.4 million people (1994) to over 5.7 million by 2014, yet the numbers of people who deliver services on behalf of the Government has dropped from 48,359 to 29,568 over that 20 years. Thanks to heavy cutbacks by the Napthine government, there are now fewer workers servicing more Victorians!

People under pressure explode, or resort to drugs or alcohol to ease the pressure. The population of women who are homeless because of domestic and family violence is increasingly becoming a group with complex and multiple needs due to drug and alcohol dependency, mental health issues and disability.

Overloaded prisons and correctional services

The prison population in Victoria grew by more than 14 per cent between December 2012 and December 2013 and rose every month. The recidivism rate is based on the number of prisoners who return to jail, under sentence, within two years of release. Unpublished state government figures obtained by The Saturday Age reveal the recidivism rate for 2013-2014 is at a 10-year high of 40 per cent, up from a low of 34 per cent four years ago. Prisoner numbers have grown almost 40 per cent from 4350 in June 2009 to 6454 on January 16. The government's forecast prison population for June 2015 is 7169.

Urban sprawl and housing challenges

Melbourne's rapid expansion, and urban sprawl, means that families are separated by a gulf of distances, due to limited affordable housing. Instead of being able to settle close to family support, in the suburbs where people grew up, they are forced either to rent, or buy in far flung urban fringes, with little infrastructure, support services, and away from access to family connections.
People could be forced into rental properties, in transience, and nomadic existence due to rent costs and job availability. It's crumbles a sense of permanence and stability that fosters long term relationships.

Added to the mix is the "diversity" of peoples, with various values proportioned to women, and children. The rising number of homeless, of families and women, is the tip of the iceberg of those who are falling between the safety cracks in our society - based on greed for growth, at all costs.

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The ABC captured the dual dysfunctionality of Australian society, unemployment and family violence last night in 2 separate programs, "4 Corners" and "Q and A". "4 Corners" was a dismaying expose of how the privatization of what was the “Commonwealth Employment Service” has resulted in private companies doing what they are designed to do, which is to put profit ahead of everything. The program showed that this comes at the expense of the tax payer and at the expense of the client. It dismally showed suburban streets where no one had worked for a few decades. It showed the degrading experience of a woman who has been trying to find work via this privatized "service" for 8 years. The woman’s frustration and despair were palpable. There have to be thousands of Australians feeling these emotions for the same reasons. This would engulf your whole life. After this excellent expose came "Q and A" about widespread and increasing family violence, usually perpetrated by men and suffered by women and children. Australian society is getting to be a dystopia for many and in my view we must all see it for what it is, as a genuine dystopia when so many people are suffering. All the “middle class”, i.e. those not (yet) suffering have is a bit of a buffer against unemployment, homelessness and poverty. Whilst the "system” can treat people as badly as shown in the "4 Corners" program, none of us is safe. How did things go so wrong?

I guess we need to face the fact that the system we live in does not work primarily for us. It works for company profits. If you are lucky enough to pay tax it would be satisfying to see it go to services that enrich the whole community, but it would seem that increasingly it goes to thieves.