65 NT women killed in DV – how do we change the story? NTCOSS on ABC Radio

NTCOSS Tessa Snowdon 00:00
The high rates of domestic family and sexual violence in the Northern Territory are not unknown, people are well aware of these rates, but unfortunately, the sustained rates of DFSV in our communities has resulted in a bit of a normalizing of this violence. It means that when coronials like this are held and the findings are handed down, it doesn’t shock people. The issue with DFSV in the Northern Territory is that it’s a whole community issue, and it needs a whole of community response. And I think this coronial is a perfect example of where there’s been systemic failings across our system that unfortunately failed, Roberta. But as a community, we can do better and we can respond better.

ABC Liz Trevaskis 00:39
The coronial findings are disturbing. Roberta’s death is disturbing. Will it inspire change the kind of changes needed to make sure that this doesn’t happen to another Territorian?

NTCOSS Tessa Snowdon 00:51
Look, we hope so. I think, unfortunately, for the people that NTCOSS represent, the domestic family and sexual violence service sector. While Roberta’s case is shocking, it’s unfortunately not surprising. So for a long time, the domestic family and sexual violence sector has been talking about these systemic failings of our system, the need for more coordinated and integrated responses that really position the user of violence in view at all times. So while this coronial has some really strong recommendations in it that we hope will be adopted, and we’re hopeful for change, without the adequate resourcing of the service system it might not come about. The coronial points out the high rate of homicides that we’ve seen in the Northern
Territory, we’ve got services reporting that they can’t meet the needs of our communities. I think that is a clear display of that we are in dire straits when it comes to domestic family and sexual violence. Unfortunately, though, we can’t meet that need unless we get more adequate resourcing. And unfortunately, we’re not seeing that in the territory at this point. So we did have some really positive overtures by Linda Burney in the lead up to the federal election as the then Shadow Minister for Social Services, acknowledging the need for better funding and resourcing for domestic family and sexual violence responses in the territory. We’re hoping that with this new federal government, we continue to work together with the Northern Territory Government to get resourcing to help meet this need in the Territory.

ABC Liz Trevaskis 02:20
What, what what needs to change in terms of funding and this was one of the issues last week, services locally happy when they’re under a five year funding agreement, because they know their funding is guaranteed for five years. But the issue we discussed last week was with the rising cost of living wages been increased last week, all of these growing pressures on the
service, they might have funding for five years, but it’s not growing to meet the growing needs. So how to how does funding need to respond to that? Is it is it just literally a matter of so much more money is needed?

NTCOSS Tessa Snowdon 02:55
Well, I think there’s that’s definitely part of it. So much more money is needed. But I think that there’s two aspects of this with funding. So previously, the federal government has allocated funding to jurisdictions based on population, not based on need. So for a small population, like the Northern Territory with really high rates of violence, we’re not getting the resourcing to
meet the needs of our communities. So if we were actually receiving adequate resourcing to meet that need, that need should theoretically, encompass all of the service provision, including things like consumer price index increases, which is one of the things impacting services now. And if there are things handed down like there were last week in terms of wage increases, meeting those pressures as well. So adequate service resourcing is not just the actual provision of service to that client, it’s ensuring that organizations can meet that client need on a long term basis.

NTCOSS Tessa Snowdon 04:28
I think it’s not as easy as saying we can fix this now or in 20 years. I think the coronial is unfortunately an example of the continued systemic failings of our system in the territory. We as a sector have been advocating in partnership with Minister Worden as the Minister for Prevention of Domestic family and sexual violence for coordinated national and local efforts to prevent domestic family and sexual violence from happening not only at the crisis point, but also at the primary prevention and early intervention end. Looking at that primary prevention and early intervention is critical to long term outcomes, but at the same time, while we’re looking at that area, we need to ensure we’re still funding and resourcing the crisis end of domestic family and sexual violence at the same time. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in this space. And I think there are also some really positive steps that are happening at the moment towards making change. We’ve seen some really great programs, such as the girls can boys can program and the talking respect resources that have recently been launched in that primary prevention space that is really helping us start to move towards this more primary prevention early intervention focus in the territory.

ABC Liz Trevaskis 05:38
On the ABC Radio Darwin you’re hearing from Tessa Snowdon. She’s from the Northern Territory Council of Social Service. She represents the domestic family and sexual violence services sector. Tessa one of the most disturbing things highlighted in the coronial was that the fatal assault of Roberta was the seventh time that her partner had assaulted her in less than two weeks and it happened five days after Roberta had told police about the abuse. She was told by police to stop calling us how does that failure need to be addressed?

NTCOSS Tessa Snowdon 06:14
Well, look, I think no one’s going to say that the police in the Northern Territory don’t have an extremely complex job. But I think that this coronial is an example of where there has been a huge systemic failing and lack of understanding in terms of responding to domestic family and sexual violence. Just recently, we were having conversations with the Assistant Commissioner
Michael White, who recognized that the way that Roberta was treated was just simply not good enough and the standard was not there. The domestic family and sexual violence sector, the NT police, the NT government, are aware of these issues and are looking to change and one thing that the sector has really been advocating strongly for is greater workforce development
and training opportunities for frontline responders so that we don’t see what happened to Roberta happen again.