TODAY Show Interview

E&OE

REBECCA MADDERN:        

Well, home isn’t always safe, but help is here if you need it. That is the message from the Government as helplines see a spike in Covid-19-related phone calls.

RICHARD WILKINS:

The Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Anne Ruston, joins us this morning from Adelaide. Thank you for joining us, Minister. The numbers are up, and alarming of course, but you’re offering new support. Can you tell us about that, please?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Well part of our $150 million package that we announced a few weeks ago is a campaign to try and make sure that anybody and everybody is aware of the support that is available to them should they find themselves in a situation where they are feeling unsafe at home or that they are unfortunately subject to domestic violence. So, what we’re announcing today is a campaign so that we can make sure everybody understands the two main hotlines, 1800Respect and the Men’s hotline, are available, and the numbers that they are able to contact so that people can get the help that they need to make sure that they get through this extraordinary unprecedented situation that we all find ourselves in.

REBECCA MADDERN:

Senator, I imagine the evidence is overwhelming and that’s why there is a new campaign. What are you seeing from the evidence? Where are people going? What situations are they finding themselves in?

MINISTER RUSTON:

Well, at the moment it’s probably a little bit too early to really get a clear idea of what the situation actually is. We’re not sure, possibly, that we’re not seeing things because people are now at home and they’re in isolation and maybe not reporting. But we’ve seen mixed outcomes. Certainly we’ve seen a spike in the number of people, particularly who are contacting our online services. And yet some of our state and territory services are reporting a decrease in the number of reporting for domestic violence. But what we want to do is we want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to know what to do should they find themselves in this situation. And I think the main reason we put this program in place in the first place is so that we were prepared for what could happen. Because at the start of this incredible situation we find ourselves in, we really didn’t know what to expect. So we wanted to make sure that we and the states and territories who deal with the frontline services were prepared, and to make sure that anybody who finds themselves in a situation is able to get access to the services and the help that they need.

RICHARD WILKINS:

Hard to generalise, of course, but a big part of this campaign is encouraging men to reach out for help. Tell us about that.

MINISTER RUSTON:

One of the things that we’ve found in our research over a very long period of time is that men often find that they don’t know what they need to do if they find themselves in a situation where they’re feeling frustrated and they potentially feel like they may lash out. It’s to make sure that we get that information to men before that gets to that stage, so that they can talk possibly to other people that are in the same situation. Because it’s all well and good for us to have the services to deal with the response when we find a situation of domestic violence, but it’s much, much more important that we make sure that we stop it before it starts in the first place. And part of that is making sure that we’ve got the resources and the help to people before they get to the stage where we actually have a situation of domestic violence. So it’s very important that we are working with men as well as responding to the unfortunate situations when they arise.

RICHARD WILKINS:

Extremely important indeed. Minister Anne, thank you for your time today, we appreciate it. And of course if your or anyone you know needs help you can call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978.