Nights of fear

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Nurses and doctors are to be put on the lookout for victims of family violence in a bid to tackle the soaring number of cases in Cardinia and Casey.

Cardinia Maternal and Child Health figures show that last year, nurses supported 24 clients in one week alone.

The new Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence (SHRV) scheme aims to help break the cycle for victims who present at hospitals “night after night” with family violence-inflicted injuries.

Cardinia and Casey hospitals were among more than 100 medical services from across the state represented at the inaugural SHRV forum.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said hospitals were “uniquely placed” to provide women and children with a safe setting to reveal that they are being abused and need help.

“The hospital system is an early contact point for many people who have experienced family violence so this presents an opportunity for earlier identification and improved responses and referral of victims,” Ms Hennessy said.

“The forum aims to help hospitals redesign their services and train medical staff on how to identify cases of family violence and facilitate the access of appropriate services and legal support.

“There may be instances where an overnight stay might be more appropriate than sending a victim of family violence back to their home but we need systems in place, facilities and trained medical staff to support that.”

Ms Hennessy said her priority was to ensure that as these issues are addressed, there is no variance within the system across the state.

“It’s important that any woman, no matter where she lives or what hospital she goes to, can access the same services,” she said.

She welcomed Cardinia shire’s recent launch of the Together We Can campaign, the first council-led initiative of its kind to tackle family violence at a local level.

Kooweerup Regional Health Service (KRHS)’s Aileen Thoms attended the SHRV forum on Monday 30 May.

She said KRHS staff “regularly” supported families impacted by family violence.

“The prevention of violence against women and children is an area that requires a greater response and hospitals can play an important part in strengthening community action to ensure the health and safety of women and children,” she said.

“For many women who have experienced family violence, there may have been multiple contacts with health professionals but often the violence is not disclosed and sometimes that’s because no one asks.

“By providing education and additional resources to hospital staff they are more able to identify and appropriately help women to gain support from police and other services.

“KRHS has identified the prevention of family violence as a priority area and will be implementing a range of initiatives. KRHS has also been partnering with local agencies and Cardinia council to identify local strategies.”

Casey Hospital was also represented at the forum and was committed to supporting local families with issues of family violence.

“We know that for many women, a health care professional may be the first person they open up to about family violence,” Monash Health Community operations director Deborah Stuart said.

“The program will help increase the knowledge and skills of frontline staff in addressing causes of family violence, and how to connect people with the right supports.”

Cardinia Shire and the City of Casey have the two highest rates of recorded family violence incidents in Victoria’s southern metropolitan region.

Victoria Police reports showed that there were 1364 family violence incidents reported in Cardinia Shire during 2014/15.

These figures were 15 per cent higher than the state average.

The SHRV forum came shortly after the World Health Organisation adopted a global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system in addressing interpersonal violence, particularly against women and children.

University of Melbourne professor Kelsey Hegarty was appointed Australia’s first chair of Family Violence Prevention during the forum and will work closely with WHO as an expert adviser.

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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