Minister Rishworth Doorstop interview in Hobart


Topics: Innovative Perpetrator Responses, Safe Places Inclusion Round, the Voice

CATRYNA BILYK, SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: I'm Catryna Bilyk, Labor Senator for Tasmania and I'm here with the Minister of Social Services Amanda Rishworth. Amanda has been doing a lot of work in regards to family and domestic violence and today she's going to make some announcements about that. So without further ado, Minister Rishworth. 

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Thank you. It's wonderful to be here with Senator Catryna Bilyk who has been a huge advocate for services and support to address family, domestic and sexual violence here in Tasmania. I'm really pleased to announce today that we will be working with the Tasmanian Government to pilot two new perpetrator interventions. As part of our National Plan, through our consultations, it became very clear that while services for women and children escaping domestic violence are critically important, if we do not address perpetrator behaviour and intervene to change the behaviour of men, we are not going to end the cycle of family sexual and domestic violence. Today I announced $3.1 million for two perpetrator intervention trials to be worked on with the Tasmanian Government. The first is a behaviour change program that is evidence based and that will be available to those that have family and domestic violence orders and are mandated by the courts to attend a behaviour change program. This behaviour change program is backed by evidence. It includes psychosocial education and counselling and we really want to see this investment made so that we can see behaviour change and break the cycle. The second program is working with people that are spending time in prison. Perhaps for family and domestic violence reasons, but are only in there for a short period of time. This provides us a really important window to intervene. This casework that will be done with these individuals will look at their relationships, look at some counselling, look at stable housing away from the victim survivor. Importantly in these programs there will be connections and safety checks with victim survivors. We are not ignoring the victim survivors as part of this. These are important programs. We need to build the evidence base of what works to change perpetrator behaviour, because if we don't actually address it, we are going to just see this cycle go over and over again. I also visited some Safe Places here in Hobart and visited some of the wonderful workers that work every day with women and children escaping family and domestic violence. I was really pleased to visit one of the Safe Places that was funded by the Commonwealth. I was also very pleased yesterday to announce that our second round of Safe Places funding is now available for application. The Commonwealth has put $100 million on the table, around the country, for more crisis accommodation for women and children escaping family and domestic violence. We would encourage organisations that are doing this great work to have a look at it. It is called the ‘Inclusion Round’ which means it is focused on particularly making sure that these crisis accommodation places are accessible for women with disability. That they accommodate, for example, larger families because we heard this morning that there's been families of up to five children looking for crisis accommodation. So we need to make sure that this accommodation is flexible and can meet the needs of families to make sure that the lack of housing options is not a barrier to someone leaving a violent relationship. Finally, let me make a few more comments about the Voice. It has been wonderful to be out with some of our Labor Tasmanian Senators having conversations about the referendum. There is a very positive mood here in Tasmania. A lot of people wanting to have conversations about what this referendum means and the very simple proposition that's out there. Do we want to recognise First Nations people in our Constitution through the way that they have asked – through a Voice to Parliament?  As a way to listen and provide practical and better outcomes. We have had some wonderful conversations with Tasmanians and I know that our Senators and our House of Representatives Members will be continuing to have those conversations right up until Referendum Day.

JOURNALIST: Just taking it back to the trial programs, how you will you actually know if they're being successful?

AMANDA RISHWORTH:  That's a really good question. We will be looking at an evaluation that looks at the change in behaviour and breaking of the cycle of domestic and family violence. There will be an evaluation process to look at if these interventions work. The important message is – we have to start somewhere. We have to bring together what we know can work and actually put it into practical settings and that's exactly what this does. One of the other things we've recently announced is an Evidence Portal that's been drawn together by ANROWS and this brings together what we know works in one place. The evaluation of these programs will add to that evidence base to make sure we're putting in things that work

JOURNALIST: Why is the Australian Government chipping in money for this? Why not just rely on the states?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We've been very clear in our National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children that this is a joint responsibility with both Federal and state governments. I've had really wonderful cooperation with my state counterparts around putting in things that work. We have been working in a collaborative way. This is one of the programs that we are putting in place, but it isn't the only one. The Federal Government, in two budgets since we have been elected, has put $2.3 billion into family and domestic and sexual violence. That is a significant investment and we are working with states and territories to make sure they continue to put in extra funding themselves, because if we are going to end family and domestic violence in one generation, we need to make sure that we are all pulling in the same direction.

JOURNALIST: How far does this funding go in terms of how long these programs can run and how many people they can reach?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The two programs will continue over a four-year period. We believe four years is the right period of time to be able to collect enough evidence to demonstrate efficacy. In terms of the number of people that it will help, that will depend on how many people are being referred for family domestic violence orders. But we do believe that these programs are targeted at the people they needed to be targeted to. So behaviour change for those people that have been identified and court-mandated for behaviour change programs. An important cohort of people that we need to intervene with and provide that support, but also that brief intervention in the prison system. Coming into contact in the prison system provides governments with the opportunity to intervene and to provide the support for behaviour change. We see the targeted groups of people that these services will support as critical to making a change.

JOURNALIST: Are you trying to test or run this trial with any other states?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Tasmania is the first place that these perpetrator interventions will be trialled. While they bring together evidence of what components work, as a program they haven't been trialled by any other state or territory before. It will be important for Tasmania to be a leader in these areas and the evidence it builds. I would like to thank the Tasmanian Government for the innovation that they brought to the table. Sometimes when we talk about perpetrator intervention we do not always get the most innovative proposals, but this is a very innovative proposal and we look forward to working with the Tasmanian Government to see the outcomes.

JOURNALIST: And in terms of the safer places, you mentioned more inclusive places and making those suitable for people living with a disability. But what about people who are LGBTQIA+, is there a greater need for more services for them as well?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The Safe Places Inclusion Round provides incentives and encouragement for people to look at all those people more at risk. That includes LGBTIQA+ people along with people with disability, along with those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and First Nations People. We've gone out and consulted with these different groups along with the broader community affected by domestic and family violence. What you will see in the resulting design of these Safe Places is how they take some of these specific challenges into consideration. Larger families is one example, disability friendly design, but also things like areas for prayer or yarning for example. It is looking at innovative design, which will incorporate a range of different groups of people that may face more vulnerability and barriers, where their access might be a problem.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any plans to meet with members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community while you're down here on your visit to talk to them about their stance on the Voice?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I haven't got any plans to directly meet with Aboriginal Community Organisations around the Voice. I have, in my discussions with a number of different organisations, met Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and talked about some of the issues confronting them. One of the big areas in Closing the Gap that we need to address is Target 12. Target 12 is out-of-home care and the unacceptable numbers of First Nations children in out-of-home care. As Minister for Social Services I've been working with my other ministerial counterparts at a state level to look at how we really do share decision making. Some of the steps that we've taken have included, for example, having equal numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders along with ministers look at how we tackle this problem. That is how the Voice will work on a smaller scale. When I think about the constructive way I've worked with those Aboriginal leaders and some of the green shoots that we're starting to actually see, I think about what an opportunity a broader Voice to Parliament and to Government will be. That’s certainly something I've been discussing about how we tackle that issue both here in Tasmania and more broadly.