Government cuts domestic violence centre's services

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BY KERRY VERNON

BRISBANE — "It is with deep disappointment and sadness that we announce the closure of the Domestic Violence Resource Centre's statewide functions due to a decision by the Queensland minister of families and the department of families", states the DVRC's web site. The centre's statewide services will cease on April 23.

Apparently, after December 4, the DVRC no longer met the state Labor government's policy criteria on violence in the community. The DVRC was not informed that its functions were under review and may be terminated.

At a meeting on February 11, 140 people supported resolutions put by the DVRC management committee. The resolutions expressed concern that the cuts would be at the expense of domestic violence services for women.

While the Queensland government has amended legislation to include the protection of all vulnerable people against violence, the DVRC stated that this should not result in less protection for women experiencing domestic violence.

Considerable concern was expressed that feminist-based services are being frozen out of government funding. Supporters of the DVRC were offended by a campaign of misrepresentation conducted by the Department of Families about the integrity and capability of the DVRC.

The operations of the DVRC's Brisbane city service are not directly affected, but there will be significant changes to organisational and service delivery. These cuts to statewide services will have an impact on regional centres and the services they provide.

The DVRC was established in 1987. It brought the issues violence against women and children to public attention. It has brought together women's experiences and feminist theory, research and organising. Its programs have focussed on improving women's social, economic and political security.

Since 1990, more than 250,000 people have contacted the DVRC. Since 1994, it has conducted many public and community campaigns, and distributed a mountain of information. It has a well-resourced library and has assisted organisations and individuals in Asian and Pacific countries. It also fought off a challenge by the Men's Rights Agency to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 1995. In the last 12 months, its web site had just under 500,000 hits.

The government expects organisations to tender for its new community-based centres, to be known as Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Centres. However, the Queensland government has not made it clear how this is to work.

Will woman victims of domestic violence needing support have to go to the same place as men in their communities? This is a safety issue for women. In the Department of Families' "Putting Families First" policy document, it mentions that the state Labor government will focus on prevention of violence in the community rather than crisis intervention. What does this mean for the thousands of women who still face domestic violence?

The DVRC will not tender for these services. It has criticised the low level of funding available and the government's policy of lumping together an array of services into small centres that can only do a fraction of what was done before. Funding available for women's and children's services is already woefully inadequate.

While the DVRC management committee has continued negotiations with the Department of Families, it decided "due to the integration of statewide and regional positions ... [to] declare all DVRC staff redundant, effective March 26".

However, the DVRC meeting approved a management committee resolution to continue to provide an independent voice on women's policy and violence against women, and to establish a new Australian Centre for Feminist Research on Violence against Women and Children. This new centre already has independent funding. It is not clear whether the new centre will provide counselling, which is a vital part of any domestic violence service for women.

The Brisbane International Women's Day Collective has demanded the Queensland Labor government restore funding to the DVRC and increase funding to all women's services.

[Visit the DVRC web site at .]

From Green Left Weekly, March 13, 2002.
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