Early help best to tackle domestic violence

HELPING families in crisis earlier was more important than electronically tracking repeat domestic violence offenders.

That was the reaction yesterday of a senior Upper Murray Family Care worker to the Victorian Police Association’s push for GPS monitoring.

The association wants people who breach an intervention or family violence order three times to wear an electronic bracelet and avoid no-go zones set up to protect victims.

But Upper Murray family Care child and family services manager Kath Kerin said families in trouble should be helped far earlier.

She said much could be done to prevent incidents escalating into domestic violence that drew the association’s concerns.

Ms Kerin said the “massive” domestic violence issue affected the whole family and “our communities — everybody”.

“I would like to see a push for more infrastructure and resources for earlier intervention,” she said.”

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Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark said courts could order GPS monitoring on offenders, although specific legislation might be required and it was “an idea we want to take further”.

“Already, the courts can order family violence perpetrators to be GPS-monitored and tracked,” he said.

“We have a contract in place that can make many hundreds of these devices available.

“We won’t hesitate to extend the use of GPS monitoring, as and when we can, to better protect the community.”

But Ms Kerin said it was vital families be supported when they first appeared to be struggling.

“Families have issues for a range of reasons,” she said.

“There can be complexities like mental health and disability — and family violence overarches all that.

“This affects the functioning of families and people’s ability to respond to things.”

Upper Murray Family Care focuses on children’s best interests and helps parents deal with their issues.

Ms Kerin said the aim was to allow children to have every opportunity to grow into adults with “the most opportunities possible”.

She said it was important the whole system responded as early as possible — not just the police or justice, but agencies working in areas such as drugs and alcohol, mental health and homelessness.

“That means there’s more potential for things to be worked on at an earlier point in a family crisis.”

The Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the GPS suggestion was a “good idea to deal with a very bad problem”, but a system-wide overhaul was needed and Labor, if elected, would hold a royal commission into family violence.

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