There has been an increase in attention to family and domestic violence and recognition of the role Local Governments play in the culture and attitudes of their community through the services and initiatives they run at a local level. Since March 2018, WALGA has been increasingly requested to represent the Local Government sector on a variety of family and domestic violence topics. This has included Local, State and Commonwealth Government legislative reviews, parliamentary inquiries and the development of resources.

Family and domestic violence is a complex and concerning issue with significant long-term impacts for victims. Family violence refers to violence between family members, typically where the perpetrator exercises power and control over another person. Domestic violence occurs in current or past intimate partner relationships. Family and domestic violence behaviours can involve:

  • physical violence
  • sexual assault
  • verbal or emotional abuse
  • controlling behaviour
  • stalking
  • financial abuse, and
  • elder abuse.

National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children 2010-2022

In August 2019, the Council of Australian Governments endorsed the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, agreeing on five national priorities to reduce family, domestic and sexual violence.

Our Watch: National Organisation

Our Watch was established in 2013 to address a recommendation from the Commonwealth Government’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010‐2022. Our Watch is the primary national violence prevention agency which aims to drive nationwide change in the cultures, behaviours and power imbalances that lead to violence against women by working closely with members to implement its strategies and initiatives. All State and Territory Governments are members of Our Watch.

In November 2015 Our Watch released ‘ Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia’ (known as ‘Change the Story’) which was developed in partnership with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth), and ANROWS.

Commonwealth Department of Social Services - Development of the 'Local Government Domestic and Family Violence Toolkit'

The Commonwealth Department of Social Services developed the draft 'Local Government Domestic and Family Violence Toolkit' which was an action from the Third Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010‐2022. This required action was to “co-design tools and resources with local governments to engage with business, sporting organisations and community groups to promote action against violence.” WALGA was part of a reference group which guided the development of the toolkit. The toolkit was piloted in five Local Governments across Australia, including:
  • City of Charles Sturt, South Australia
  • Latrobe City Council, Victoria
  • Mackay Regional Council, Queensland
  • City of Mandurah, Western Australia
  • City of Parramatta Council, New South Wales.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety’ (ANROWS) was engaged to provide guidance to the five Local Governments using the toolkit to appropriately plan, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of an action that addresses family and domestic violence. Local Governments were also supported in developing case studies of their trial actions that contributed to the final report by ANROWS released in June 2019. The toolkit is being further refined and will then be released.

Western Australian State Legislation Reform

WALGA supports the  Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Act 2019 introduced in February 2019  which makes it easier for victims of  family and domestic violence to escape their situation without penalty. The changes in legislation are essential for keeping people experiencing family and domestic violence safe and include:

  • Being able to terminate a tenancy agreement within seven days by providing the landlord with evidence of domestic violence, such as a restraining order or a letter from a medical professional, removing the need to go to Court;
  • Being able to stay in the home if they choose - they will be able to apply to the Court to have the perpetrator's name removed from the tenancy agreement;
  • Being able to change the locks immediately, without permission from their landlord;
  • Being able to install CCTV security at their rental home, at their own cost; and
  • Provisions to deal with property damage, unpaid rent and disbursement of the bond to ensure the victim does not carry the financial burden after a tenancy ends.
In November 2019 the WA State Government introduced the Family Violence Legislation Reform Bill 2019 into State Parliament. The Bill aims to amend nine separate pieces of legislation across six separate Ministerial portfolios, and demonstrate a cross-Government commitment to tackling family and domestic violence. The Bill was introduced to address the recommendations from the Law Reform Commission’s Report into Family Violence.

WA State Strategy to Respond to the Abuse of Older People (Elder Abuse)

In November 2019 the State Government released the first ever strategy into elder abuse: The WA Strategy to Respond to the Abuse of Older People (Elder Abuse). This 10-year strategy is a blueprint for the priorities, actions and outcomes required to effectively prevent and respond to the abuse of older people. Elder abuse affects many older Western Australians and may involve financial, social, physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse. WALGA provided a  submission to the State Government in response to the development of this Strategy.

WALGA Webinar - February 2019

WALGA together with Know Injury and the City of Mandurah have previously held a webinar for Local Governments in February 2019 and the webinar slides are available here.