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Measures to curb the current global pandemic are tightening and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Stage 3 is imminent to contain the spread of COVID-19. In this case, families are confined to their home. Unfortunately, this will see a rise in the number of and women and children at risk of domestic violence.

Interface Councils spokesperson and Mayor of Nillumbik Shire Council Cr Karen Egan expressed real concern of the increased risk that more women could die from domestic violence, an issue that will be overshadowed by COVID-19.

"Melbourne’s outer suburbs already have higher rates of family violence when compared to the Melbourne metropolitan average. There is an urgent need for the Victorian Government to open more Orange Door Hubs because currently there are no hubs in the Interface Councils Region.

“The Orange Door Hubs and associated outreach services are a recommendation from the Royal Commission into Family Violence and we think they will save lives and help women and children access the assistance and services they need, before they end up homeless or in other devastating circumstances.

While several hubs have already been planned, they are not being located where they are needed most.

“We know low-income families and those with insecure employment arrangements in Melbourne’s outer suburbs will be disproportionately affected by financial stress during this time and after it’s all over. We also know financial stress arising from changes in employment or income has been recognised as a precursor to family violence. There has never been a more important time to act.

“There is a gap of family violence service provision of almost 50 per cent in the Interface Councils Region compared with metropolitan Melbourne. Before COVID-19, there were more than 50 per cent fewer psychologists, 2 per cent less mental health support and about 13 per cent less alcohol and drug support. Without more support there won’t be enough help for people impacted by the current public health crisis.

“Local Councils in the Interface Councils Region have provided Family Safety Victoria with proposals for Hub locations where families need them most but we have concerns that these have fallen on deaf ears.

“For example, we understand there is an Orange Door Hub planned for Shepparton that is expected to service families and individuals experiencing violence in Mitchell Shire Council. However, it will be located 90 minutes by car from the township of Wallan where it is needed most. It is unreasonable to expect that women and children in dangerous situations at home will travel this far to access support under normal circumstances.

“We know there are already significant barriers to family violence victims and offenders seeking help. Now this concern becomes urgent when you consider vulnerable people may be stuck in lockdown in their homes with a perpetrator very soon. Without the hope of an Orange Door hub in the outer suburbs in the near future, it’s a sure fire way for dangerous situations to escalate,” Cr Egan said.

During the week of Tuesday 31 March to Tuesday 7 April Interface Councils will be shining a spotlight on family violence in the outer suburbs on its Facebook and Twitter pages.

<ENDS> Media contact: Zoe Forbes or 0438 924 462

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